Olympic Stadium Wildflower Meadows
In mid May 2012, the UK's largest ever man-made wildflower meadows were sown, to flower into a beautiful golden ground canopy around the Olympic Stadium site, three months later...
The riverbank meadows of bee-friendly cornflowers, marigolds, Californian poppies and prairie flowers have been especially grown and developed to flower late, to welcome the Games opening ceremony. The mewdow development team was led by international wildflower expert Professor Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield.
The nectar-rich wildflower meadows complement the gardens, lawns, woodlands and wetlands providing the colourful setting for the Games. And even better news, they will be retained as parkland for local people, visitors and wildlife.
Autumn Planting & Winter Nurturing Process
The Olympic Delivery Authority planted 4,000 trees, 300,000 wetland plants, 15,000 square metres of lawns and more than 150,000 perennial plants and bushes in the Olympic Park and Village during the Autumn of 2011.
Through winter, specialist gardeners and horticulturists worked to ensure that the Park reaches its colourful peak this summer. This work included wrapping trees through winter and cutting back thousands of early-flowering plants, to bloom in July.
Throughout the nation, families and neighbours were encouraged to 'Garden for the Games' and bring the excitement of the London 2012 Olympics to their neighbourhood. At Garnetbank Primary School in Glasgow, pupils planted a wildflower meadow in their school playground. Residents on Poplar, in Tower Hamlets, London, brightened up their estate with wildflowers.
Population Encouraged to Get Involved in Gardening for the Olympics
Encouraging the Garden for the Games initiative, Professor Nigel Dunnett, said: 'After years of preparation and two practice runs we have sown the final meadows that will run like a ribbon of gold around the Olympic Stadium. In just a few weeks visitors to the Olympic Park and TV viewers will see areas of flat mud transformed into waist-high wildflower meadows buzzing with bees and butterflies. London 2012 is a great opportunity to get out and Garden for the Games by sowing your own wildflower meadow. With a bag of seed from your local garden centre you and your neighbours can quickly and cheaply brighten up your area and give your local wildlife a boost.'
Sarah Raven, presenter of recent BBC2 documentary 'Bees, butterflies and blooms' and author of 'Wild Flowers', said:
'There's no better way to get almost instant colour and nectar into your garden than sowing an annual meadow mix - and with all this rain, it could not be a better time. Give the area a quick rake and then just scatter the seeds into any bare bit of ground in the sunshine. Within weeks the Olympic Park and potentially your garden will be ablaze with abundant colour as well as butterflies and bees, with all the food being provided. Do your own bit and join this brilliant initiative.'
Olympic Park Meadows Development
An area the size of 10 football pitches full of annual and perennial meadows were planted in the Olympic Park, sown to flower during the Games. The annual meadows around the Olympic Stadium are a wonderful combination of tickseed, cornflower, corn marigold, star of the veldt from South Africa, Californian poppy and plains coreopsis. Transforming from yellow and blue in July to gold in August, this is a spectacular sight.
The Olympic meadows have been developed over 2 years, using the design team's techniques of irrigation, late sowing and cutting back so that the flowers peaked for the Olympic Opening Ceremony in August.
A combination of shorter and taller perennial meadows were sown two years ago. Many of the seeds were frozen, to trick them into thinking they had over-wintered, so they would respond with quicker germination, ensuring that they flowered in time for the Games.
Olympic Meadow's Biodiversity
The meadows were designed to be nectar- and pollen-rich, diverse, and with a long flowering season. The purpose was to sustain a variety of bees, butterflies, birds, moths and other insects. Certain plants and flower species were planted to attract particular wildlife. For example, the marsh fritillary butterfly needs devil's bit scabious for its caterpillars and burnet moths are attracted by knapweed flowers.
Habitats for a variety of species have been created. Species include otter, kingfisher, grey heron, house sparrow, bat, linnet, song thrush, swift, starling, sand martin, toadflax brocade moth, lizard, black redstart, flower and fungus beetle, frogs, newts and toads, eels, water vole, and grass snake.
The meadows were sown in low-nutrient soil, with a high sand content, to ensure a diverse mix of flowers and to discourage weeds.
4,000 semi-mature trees were planted, including Wild and Bird Cherry, Ash, Hazel, White Willow, Crack Willow, Alder, Aspen, Holm Oak, English Oak, Rowan, Lime, Field Maple, Sweet Gum and Silver Birch. Willow, Poplar and Alder were planted in river areas to withstand flooding and species vulnerable to climate change have been avoided.
More than 300,000 wetland plants, grown in Norfolk and Wales were planted.30 species of native reeds, rushes, grasses, sedges, wet wildflowers and irises were grown on the Gower Peninsula in Wales.
Royal Horticultural Society Great British Garden - de Coubertin Oak
A riverside Royal Horticultural Society Great British Garden overlooks the Olympic Stadium. It has Bronze, Silver and Gold areas with matching colour wildflowers and grasses. A further attraction is its 'running-track inspired' spiral paths.
Of immense visitor interest is the 'de Coubertin oak'. This oak tree is grown from an acorn collected from the tree planted by Baron Pierre De Coubertin. He planted the tree in 1894 in recognition of the citizens of Much Wenlock in Shropshire, who inspired the founding of the modern Olympic Games.
And After The Games?
After the event, the meadows will gradually incorporate a wider range of grasses, some by nature and others by intentional over sowing. This way they will self-sustain and also support particular butterfly larvae such as meadow brown.
Olympic Wildflower Meadows, Biodiversity, Wetlands, Habitat, de Coubertin oak