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Project Title: London Olympic Park Annual Meadows Date of Completion: 2008 - ongoing Planting Design: Nigel Dunnett
Project File: The London Olympic Park Annual Meadows A captioned photoset of the Olympic Park Annual Meadows can be found here The 2012 Olympic Gold Meadows surround the Olympic Stadium
Detail of the 'Olympic Gold Meadows' on Stadium Island, The London Olympic Park
Annual meadows are used predominantly in South Park to create a visually spectacular display during games year in 2012. The Olympic Development Authority wanted to include large areas of ‘Pictorial Meadows’: the highly colourful and striking meadows developed by Nigel Dunnett that have become widely used in the UK. The annual meadow areas in the Olympic Park are the largest areas of annual meadows ever to have been used in a park setting.
The annual meadows in the London Olympc Park are the largest example of this type of planting to be used in a public park
The main area where the annual ‘Display Meadows’ are used is around the main Olympic Stadium, and very specific requirements were given for the specification of the annual meadows. The meadows had to be in peak flower for the opening day of the games (July 27th), but must look good for many weeks before that, and must continue in full flower throughout the games and Paralympics. The colour requirement for the meadows around the stadium was precise: they must flower in yellow and gold, and would be known as the ‘Olympic Gold Meadows’.
Because these are annual meadows, and the flowering plants in them are sown, flower, set seed and die within the same year, the meadows have to be started afresh from seed each year. The areas for sowing became available in 2010 and 2011, and rather than leaving the areas bare for one or two years, the meadows have been sown in 2010 and 2011. This has given valuable experimental time in which to assess the quality of the flowering display, the colour combinations, and to work out the optimal establishment and maintenance regime to enable full flowering at the end of July. The Orbit rises above the annual meadows
Seeds are sown onto cultivated ground in late April/early May at a rate of 2g m2. Flowering commences in late June and will continue through until the frosts of winter. In the early part of the flowering season, the meadows are coloured blue and orange, and there is then a gradual colour transformation through to yellow and gold. In the early part of the flowering season of the meadows, the main colour is blue, yellow and orange
The meadows include both native and non native plants. Key species include Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), Corn Marigold hybrids (Chrysanthemum segetum), Star of the Veldt (Dimorphotheca aurantiacum), Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) and Tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria). Clear orange Dimorphotheca aurantiaca with yellow Chrysanthemum segetum hybrids Prairie Tickseed, Coreopsis tinctoria, provides the main late summer display Calendula 'Orange King' is the earliest species to flower.
Sowing and establishment of the Annual Meadows Seed is sown onto clean, weed-free soil, cultivated to form a fine tilth or seedbed in late April to early may. This is later than normal practice, but is to ensure that flowering is at its peak in late summer and early autumn, to coincide with the games period.
The site prior to sowing in 2010. The site was highly contaminated and therefore all soils are artificial, laid over a clay cap to seal the contamination beneath. A layer of sand/subsoil (seen on the left of the canal) sits below the spead topsoil (seen on the right of the canal), onto which seeds are sown.
The meadow seed is in buckets mixed with sand or sawdust to enable it to be spread evenly and thinly across the area to be sown
Nigel Dunnett showing the team of contractors how to sow the annual meadow seed
Sowing the seed by hand at a rate of 2g per square metre. The sawdust allows the sown area to be seen clearly.
Once sown, the area is raked over lightly to incorporate the seed into the soil, and then lightly trodden to firm the area.
Because the area is sloping, a layer of biodegradable jute mesh was pinned over the sown area to prevent wash off and gulleying following rain storms.
Six weeks after sowing, the meadow areas are covered in dense green growth