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Growing gold for the London Olympics


May 14, 2012
By Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery

gi_97209_1254992_m01May 14, 2012, London — After two years of trials and research, the United Kingdom's largest ever man-made wildflower meadows have been sown around London's Olympic Stadium.

The riverbank meadows of bee-friendly cornflowers, marigolds, Californian poppies and prairie flowers were all specially selected to flower late and lend a golden glow to ceremonies in the stadium. The flowers were selected by wildflower expert Nigel Dunnett, a professor at the University of Sheffield.

The bulk of the planting – including 4,000 trees, 15,000 square metres of lawns, 150,000 perennial plants and bushes, and 300,000 wetland plants – in the Olympic Park and Village was completed last fall by the Olympic Delivery Authority.Throughout the winter and spring, a dedicated team of specialist gardeners and horticulturists have been battling the elements to ensure that the park reaches its colourful peak this summer.

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In total, the meadows include:

  • More than 10 hectares of annual and perennial meadows have been created in the Olympic Park, designed and sown to flower during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • The annual meadows are a combination of tickseed, cornflower, corn marigold, star of the veldt from South Africa, Californian poppy and plains coreopsis, which moves from yellow and blue in July to gold in August.
  • The meadows, which are sown annually, have been trialled during the last two years to perfect the team's extensively researched technique of irrigation, late sowing and cutting back that will ensure the flowers peak for the opening ceremony in 2012.
  • A combination of shorter and taller perennial meadows, which require only a single seeding, were sown two years ago across the Olympic Park to allow plenty of time for them to establish before the Games. Many of the seeds were frozen to trick them into thinking they had over-wintered to quicken germination and ensure they flower in time.
  • The shorter meadows on drier sunny slopes are a colourful mix of thyme, calamint, origanum, viper's bugloss and wild carrot. The taller meadows on shadier slopes include musk mallow, meadow cranesbill, devil's bit scabious, red clover, bloody cranesbill and great burnet.
  • The meadows have been sown in specially designed low-nutrient soil with a high sand content to ensure a diverse mix of flowers and to discourage weeds.

Sowing the last of more than ten football fields' worth of nectar-rich wildflower meadows marks the final preparations of the gardens, lawns, woodlands and welands that will provide the colourful setting for the Games and become a new park for people and wildlife for generations to come.


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