Outdoor spaces filled with plants are ‘no longer an optional and decorative nice-to-have’, said garden designer Prof Nigel Dunnett of Sheffield University.
“They’re essential. With pollution levels dangerously high in cities like London, Glasgow and Southampton and flash-flooding devastating areas of the country last year, we all need to embrace the fact that plants help mitigate against some of the biggest environmental threats facing us today.”
Set within an urban context of high-rise and apartment blocks, Prof Dunnett’s Greening Grey Britain garden – set to go on show at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May – focuses on practical and creative solutions for where space is at a premium, including balconies, and other spaces on and around the buildings themselves. The garden – a feature of the show that will be not be put forward for judging – also contains RHS Chelsea’s first street art wall, created by Sheffield street artists Faunagraphic and Rocket01.
“The benefits of plants, gardens and greenspaces aren’t appreciated enough,” Prof Dunnett added.
“I hope that by showcasing realistic, simple and sustainable ideas that are directly relevant to home gardeners, community groups and crucially, to urban residential and commercial developers we can make a difference.”
Prof Dunnett uses plants that soak up pollution, as well as those which are drought-tolerant. The garden employs water-sensitive design ideas, such as rain gardens and wetland areas to deal with flash flooding.
Large, multi-tiered habitat structures which mirror the human apartment block, also feature. These creature towers provide a home for a wide range of wildlife such as insects and birds.
Other elements include bike storage, recycling and composting facilities, and edible planting, including a two-and-a-half metre long communal meeting table, that integrates fruit trees and herbs in its structure.
Prof Dunnett’s previous projects include the wildflower meadows planted around the Olympic Stadium in London in 2012, and the Grey to Green scheme to spruce up West Bar.
“We know gardens and gardening bring people together, and there’s now overwhelming evidence that they make us feel better and healthier. These ideas are central to the design. There’s never been a greater need for us to engage with each other, and with nature,” he said.
l Visit www.rhs.org.uk/flowershows for details.