Olympic Park Planting London 2012

I was lucky enough to have tickets to go and see the diving at the London 2012 Olympic Games yesterday– wow well done China – and Russia.  Amazing.  And Team GB – go on boys!  Gotta Love London 2012.  Sorry I digress..

The London 2012 Olympic Park planting design is totally inspiring.  Credit on the London 2012 Park's design goes to Nigel Dunnett & James Hitchmough with Sarah Price's Planting Deisgn.  One of the things that  really struck me is the movement that the planting design has.  Movement in planting design is actually terribly important, and so often you can’t get the true impression of planting from still photographs.

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Olympic Park Planting



The planting design at the London 2012 Olympic Park has clearly been very well thought out – incredible meadow planting, all in bloom – it seems to gently ripple, and hangs together as a whole piece very well.  You are taken through drifts of natural looking planting from area to area (and the park is vast).  It could have come across as rather segmented, but in fact it doesn’t at all.

This little video was mostly taken on an iphone 4 – but interestingly does capture some of the spirit of the Olympic Park planting.  In the first few frames of the video you see the signature of Nigel Dunnett & James Hitchmough – Annual ‘pictorial’ meadows which surround the London 2012 main Olympic stadium. The stipulation for the meadows around the Olympic stadium was that they should be yellow and gold – known as the ‘Olympic Gold Meadows’. .  This is followed by the Europe Garden.  An area inspired by European hay meadows but with flower species chosen for their length of flowering, and finally you'll see the delicate umbel flowers of Ammi majus, with spikes of purple Atriplex and blue cornflowers growing through it.

The design of the London 2012 Olympic Park gardens is a collaboration between Professors James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnett (who originated the overall concept for the gardens, and the concept for each of the four individual gardens, and who developed the plant lists and specifications) and Sarah Price (who undertook the spatial design of the gardens, and the detailed planting design within the gardens). James, Nigel and Sarah worked in close cooperation with the teams from LDA Design/Hargreaves to develop and deliver the final scheme.

London 2012 Olympic Park Concept

Sarah Price, Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough

There are four gardens running in sequence and forming a timeline in the 2012 Olympic Park. The regions each garden in the Olympic Park represents are (text taken from the outline concept document):
Olympic Park Planting Design One:  Western Europe, The Mediterranean and Asia Minor.
The source of most garden plants from the classical civilizations but increasingly sampled with the accelerating development of international trade and travel post 1400 AD.
Olympic Park Planting Design Two The Temperate Americas.
Particularly important from 1600-1800, and now once more with interest in prairie and woodland planting. Still the main source of summer flower colour in British gardens.
Olympic Park Planting Design Three The Southern Hemisphere; South Africa, Australia, New Zealand.
The major plant passion of the late C18th-early C19th is South Africa. Winter cold historically limited the possibilities in gardening terms but now with global warming these “strange and exotic”flora will now have their time again.
Olympic Park Planting Design Four Temperate Asia, particularly Montane China, Japan and the Himalayas. Politically closed in many cases till the C19th, climatic similarity to Britain makes these the dominant plant passion of the C19th and C20th.

About Sarah Price

Sarah Price is a rising star of the horticultural world and designed the entrance to ‘The 2012 Garden’ at the Olympic site. Having come from a Fine Art background, Price has been chosen for her painterly approach to planting. Her design philosophy emphasises the importance of exposing layers of history within a site and reconciling them with present demands, which is particularly appropriate at Stratford. Sarah has achieved a RHS Gold medals at the Hampton Court Flower Show, and the RHS Chelsea Flower shows.  Sarah Price studied at the Oxford College of Garden Design (sister school to MyGardenSchool).

About Nigel Dunnett

Nigel Dunnett is the Director of The Green Roof Centre, University of Sheffield.  His work revolves around innovative approaches to planting design, and the integration of ecology and horticulture to achieve low-input, dynamic, diverse, ecologically-tuned designed landscapes, at small and large scale.   Major areas of focus for Nigel Dunnett include green roofs, rain gardens, pictorial meadows, and naturalistic planting design.

About James Hitchmough

Professor James Hitchmough works closely with his co-workers at the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield on the creation of naturalistic herbaceous vegetation for use in urban parks and greenspace. These vegetation types are based on semi-natural plant communities but involve both native and exotic species to create visually dramatic, yet highly sustainable designed plantings that are managed mainly through the application of nature conservation techniques such as cutting and burning.

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