The Olympics and now the Paralympics have been such a positive experience, enjoyed by so many of us in one way or another.
I’ve never been a particularly sporty type, but I was impressed by the Olympic Park when I visited last year, despite it still being a building site at that stage. The landscaping and plants looked fabulous and so did the buildings, especially the Velodrome (continuing my obsession with Heatherwick Design Studio) and I loved the idea of them being the greenest games ever.
I couldn’t wait to see it all in operation, but as any designer knows it’s how plans on paper are transformed into the real thing that matters.
Now the Park is such a huge public space, one of the biggest urban parks in the U.K., that you may be thinking how could any of this apply to your garden, right?
But just think of it as transforming a piece of land, whatever it’s size, into what is essentially a big garden.
Here’s the list of essential steps that I’ve extracted from the process so you can use them in your own garden.
MAKE A PLAN:
When you want to improve a garden, it’s tempting to jump straight in and start making changes, but the first thing to do is to make a plan.
- List what you need in your garden, e.g. patio, paths, clothes-line, play area.
- How do you want the garden to look? e.g. formal, lush and green, simple.
- What do you want to use it for? e.g. barbeques, playing football, gardening.
- Decide what to keep, plants can be moved to a better location. (autumn is a good time for this)
This is what will make it successful in the long term. Planning for the Olympic park began six years before the Park opened, but you could do this in months.
This means how you divide the garden up and decide how much space each area takes.
You won’t need such generous sized paths and seating areas as an Olympic park, but make your patio big enough for a table and chairs and avoid skinny paths because they’re just not practical.
It’s not exciting I know, but keen gardeners know that it’s the life-blood of the garden, get this right and your plants will flourish and fight off pests and diseases. Nine different types of soil were produced to suit all the different types of plants at the Olympic Park. All you need to do is add generous amounts of soil improver to borders. This means something like horse manure that’s well-rotted or general soil improver.
Make a list of plants that will suit your soil and whether they’re going to be in shade, semi-shade or sun. Be ruthless and don’t include plants that won’t grow in your garden even though they look so tempting in the garden centre.
Use a nice mixture of structural plants like shrubs and hedges and contrast this with a combination of softer, more colourful plants.
See how the hedges give a nice solid outline to the planting and how seed-heads look so interesting.
This is the post from my first visit to the Park last year, The Olympic Park has been a great show-case for the meadow style of planting don’t you think?
all images: Jill Anderson