Urban landscape — 30 May 2017
Barbican’s wildflowers

With the Chelsea Flower Show just ending in the bucolic surrounding area of Wren’s Chelsea Hospital, contrast to this the Barbican’s Brutalist housing complex.

Built in the late 1960s it is now weathering to look more dominant and living up to its aggressive military nomenclature. When first constructed, to contrast with the stark concrete, the flower beds were laid out with lawns, bedding plants, trees and shrubs.

Over time these plantings have become both expensive to maintain, necessitating regular watering, and the trees are now causing structural issues. The whole complex is listed, so re-construction or removing the existing flower beds was a non-starter.

Landscape designer Nigel Dunnett was brought in with a brief to provide a low maintenance scheme which looked good all year, obviated the need for regular watering, was resistant to the high winds experienced at some levels and importantly left the concrete flower beds intact.

He has broken thus down to three distinctive areas:
Steppe areas in sun with shallow planting depths adapted to dry exposed sites.
Shrub-steppe had increased soil depth allowed for shrubs and small trees in low densities to promote wildlife.
Light woodland in areas of shade which had better structural support for trees providing shade for perennial ground cover.

Now as the planting matures self-seeding will subtly change this urban landscape giving all year-round contrast.

A full account of this landscaping can be found on Nigel Dunnett’s site.

Featured image: Nicola at A Ranson Note

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