Europe Garden

An overview of the Olympic Park Europe Garden, with links to further pages containing detailed information and photo galleries

Europe Garden

An overview of the Olympic Park Europe Garden, with links to further pages containing detailed information and photo galleries

Europe Garden

An overview of the Olympic Park Europe Garden, with links to further pages containing detailed information and photo galleries

Europe Garden

An overview of the Olympic Park Europe Garden, with links to further pages containing detailed information and photo galleries

Europe Garden

An overview of the Olympic Park Europe Garden, with links to further pages containing detailed information and photo galleries

Europe Garden

An overview of the Olympic Park Europe Garden, with links to further pages containing detailed information and photo galleries

Europe Garden

An overview of the Olympic Park Europe Garden, with links to further pages containing detailed information and photo galleries

Europe Garden

An overview of the Olympic Park Europe Garden, with links to further pages containing detailed information and photo galleries

The Europe Garden is one of the four linked ‘World Gardens’ that make up the 2012 gardens in the London Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – a 1.3 km linear sequence of perennial gardens.  Each of these gardens were collaborations with Sarah Price and either myself and James Hitchmough.  The Europe Garden is a collaboration with myself and Sarah.  I devised the overall concept for the garden, and made the plant selection in terms of the composition of the different layers and naturalistic mixes, while Sarah devised the spatial layout and arrangement of the formal strips and blocks and their integration with the naturalistic ‘field mixes’.

The concept for the Europe Garden was to create a distillation of the ‘meadow aesthetic’: a visually dramatic, highly designed and enhanced evocation of a wildflower meadow: a celebration of that most cherished of natural landscapes.  Similar to the other 2012 Olympic Gardens, the design consists of formal curved Box hedges and groups of multi-stemmed trees to create a permanent structure, within which are the mixed perennial and grass ‘field mixes’, again formalised by monocultural strips and blocks of architectural perennials and grasses.

Unlike the other three gardens, in the Europe Garden, the same species are used in large numbers over the whole area, with a matrix of two main grass species, within which successive layers of flowering plants rise through, producing successive waves of colour, and a very pronounced development over the whole year as the grasses mature from young shoots to the full ripeness of autumn and winter.

Key species in the Europe Garden:

Two grasses make up the main meadow-like matrix: Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Gold Veil’ which is prominent early in the season, and which was a key visual species during the Olympic Games; and Achnatherum calamagrostis, which is a visual dominant from mid-summer right through to January.

In Spring Euphorbia palustris and Geranium sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’ are one of my favourite combinations.  In early and mid-summer Leucanthemum x hybrida ‘T.E.Killin’ fills the whole garden with sparkling white daisies, and scarlet Lychnis chalcedonica and Sanguisorba officinalis make a striking red contrasts, with the creamy yellow of the Giant Scabious, Cephaleria gigantea, adding a wiry tall element.  In late summer Devil’s Bit Scabious, Succisa pratensis and Purple Loosetrife make for a purple-blue haze.  Other species play a supporting role to these main players.

The original concept for the Europe Garden contained two distinct zones: a ‘dryer’ zone consisting of a designed interpretation of Central European steppe grasslands, and a ‘wetter’ zone consisting of a designed interpretation of Western and Northern European hay meadows.  A late reconfiguration of the Olympic Park masterplan reduced the area available for the Europe Garden, and as a result, only the steppe plantings were not included.

The sections below give a brief overview of how the Europe Garden develops and changes over the whole year.

Links take you to pages that give full details, and extensive photo galleries.

Europe Garden in Spring

In spring, the whole zone is a study in green, and the meadow inspiration is very evident, with the matrix of the grass Achnatherum calamagrostis forming a rich green framework.  But it is the striking lime green of Euphorbia palustris that steals the show.  Bold clumps of the Giant Scabious, Cephaleria gigantic contrast with the Euphorbias and grasses.   Clumps of Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, are in full flower now: the touch of snowy white is uplifting amongst the green, and the small trees give structure and height to the plantings.  The formal structure of the box hedges is very effective right now – the fresh bright green of the new growth shines amongst the darker green grass foliage, but matches the shade of the Euphorbia, and the surrounding herbaceous plants have not yet grown tall enough to overtop the hedges.

For more detailed information about the Europe Garden in Spring, and an extensive photo gallery, click here

The Europe Garden in Late Spring

As in a real meadow, late spring to early summer is a point of transition in the Europe Garden, as the main flowering period begins.  Gradually, more colour starts to appear.  Euphorbia palustris is still the main player, but the colour is becoming more subdued – changing from the strident acid yellow of earlier in the spring through to a softer yellow-green.

Geranium sylvaticum ‘Mayflower’ is also flowering now – teaming the Geranium with the Euphorbia is a favourite spring combination of mine.  And the Allium relative, Nectaroscordum siculum rises up through to flower, soft green, pink and orange-brown.  This has turned out to be a good bee attracting plant.  Also rising up to flower is Phlomis russeliana – one of the structural perennials planted in linear blocks to enhance the loose mixed perennials and grasses.  Of course, this plant has a presence from now on for the rest of the year.

For full details of the Europe Garden in late spring and an extensive photo gallery from this time, click here

The Europe Garden in Early June

At the end of May and into early June the Europe Garden undergoes the first of its dramatic transformations as the bright yellow-green of earlier in the spring fades into the background and the gardens take on their full appearance of an enhanced wildflower meadow.  Euphorbia palustris that was so prominent earlier in the year now becomes part of the green backdrop, along with the rich foliage of the grass, Achnatherum calamagrostis.

Bright scarlet Lychnis chalcedonica, The Maltese Cross, erupts through this green layer across the whole area.  The combination of red and green is a striking combination.  Phlomis russeliana, planted in monocultural strips and blocks is also in full flower.

But it is the beginning of the flowering period of the Shasta Daisy cultivar, Leucanthemum ‘T. E. Killin’ that signals the beginning of the next dramatic phase of the plantings.  The white daisy flowers mimic the oxeye daisies of the traditional hay meadow, but they are bigger and bolder, and flower for far longer.  For 2012, large numbers of the grass, Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Gold Veil’ were included and the haze of flowers of this grass combined with the opening daisies creased a very bold impression.  This can be a short-lived grass, and was included to create the grassy matrix in the early years of the garden, before the main long-term grass, Achnatherum calamagrostis, became well established.

At the end of May and into early June the Europe Garden undergoes the first of its dramatic transformations as the bright yellow-green of earlier in the spring fades into the background and the gardens take on their full appearance of an enhanced wildflower meadow.  Euphorbia palustris that was so prominent earlier in the year now becomes part of the green backdrop, along with the rich foliage of the grass, Achnatherum calamagrostis.

Bright scarlet Lychnis chalcedonica, The Maltese Cross, erupts through this green layer across the whole area.  The combination of red and green is a striking combination.  Phlomis russeliana, planted in monocultural strips and blocks is also in full flower.

But it is the beginning of the flowering period of the Shasta Daisy cultivar, Leucanthemum ‘T. E. Killin’ that signals the beginning of the next dramatic phase of the plantings.  The white daisy flowers mimic the oxeye daisies of the traditional hay meadow, but they are bigger and bolder, and flower for far longer.  For 2012, large numbers of the grass, Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Gold Veil’ were included and the haze of flowers of this grass combined with the opening daisies creased a very bold impression.  This can be a short-lived grass, and was included to create the grassy matrix in the early years of the garden, before the main long-term grass, Achnatherum calamagrostis, became well established.

For more detail and an extensive photo gallery of the Europe Garden in early June, click here

Europe Garden in mid-late June

The concept of ‘the meadow aesthetic’ as the basis for the plantings in the Europe garden really becomes apparent in June.  The fantastic cultivar of the Shasta Daisy, Leucanthemum x superbum ‘T. E. Killin’ comes into full flower.  This cultivar is sturdy and upright and very floriferous, and mingles throughout with main grass in the plantings, Achnatherum calamagrostis, which is also in full flower, with exhuberant arching stems and flower heads, and Deschampsia cespitosa, which started its flowering period earlier in the summer.  The vibrant red of Lychnis chalcedonica punches through to add height.  This illustrates one of my core principles: at any one time it is just two or three species that generate the main visual impact across the area of a planting.  In this case, the combination of white and red against the green backdrop is really striking.

Euphorbia palustris, which was the key visual plant in May, is now virtually invisible, over-topped by the grasses and other plants.  The Giant Scabious, Cephaleria gigantea is now at its flowering peak.

For more information and an extensive gallery of photographs of the Europe Garden in mid-late June, click here

Europe Garden in July

In July, just like in a real hay meadow, the Europe Garden takes on a real sense of ripening and maturity, as the grasses flowers start to bleach.  Leucanthemum ‘T.E.Killin’ comes to the end of its flowering period, and the white daisies of the first part of the summer start to fade.

The grass Achnatherum calamagrostis takes over as the dominant visual grass species, with its graceful arching stems.  At this time, a whole new set of species starts to rise up through the layers.

Sanguisorba officinalis, with its wiry stems and collection of red thimble flowers erupts over the whole area.  Scattered Inula magnifica throw up their yellow flowers.

Strips of Allium sphaerocephalum, with intense purple flower heads, flower beside the naturalistic meadow plantings and blocks of dark Molinia caerulea.

For more information, and an extensive photo gallery of the Europe Garden in July, click here

The Europe Garden in August

In August the Europe Garden takes on its late summer aspect as a whole new layer pushes through.  The white daisies of Leucanthemum ‘T.E.Killin’ have now faded into the background.  The grasses are ripening and creating a golden haze.  And there is now the final colour transition, as the purple-blue of Devil’s Bit Scabious, Succisa pratensis, creates the main visual impression, together with scattered Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum virgatum ‘Dropmore Purple’.  The thimble flower heads of Sanguisorba officinalis now deepen to a deep crimson and stud themselves amongst the ripe grasses.

For more information and an extensive photo gallery of the Europe Garden in August, click here

Europe Garden in September

In September the grasses take over.  Achnatherum calamagrostis transforms itself from the graceful arching seed heads of earlier in the summer to a tighter and more upright form as it becomes fully ripe and mature.  As the month progresses it becomes more and more bleached.  The visual effect of the whole garden is dominated by this grass from now onwards.  Waves spread across the garden in the wind, and the grasses sparkle in the sun.

For more information and an extensive photo gallery of the Europe Garden in September, click here

The Europe Garden in October

In October the Europe Garden has reached its full maturity.  The grasses are fully bleached, and the seed heads of the Giant Scabious, Cephaleria gigantea, Sanguisorba officinalis, and Inula magnifica are black against the silvery grasses.  Coming full circle, Euphorbia palustris, which was the main display species of early to mid spring now makes another appearance as it colours up red and pink for the autumn.  The formal curved clipped box hedges that become submerged under the exuberance of the summer flowering, now start to re-assert themselves as the main plantings start to become more sparse as autumn progresses.

For more information and an extensive photo gallery of The Europe garden in October, click here

The Europe Garden in Winter

As is the norm with naturalistic perennial and grass plantings, the Europe Garden is left to stand over the winter.  The grasses continue to create the dominant visual effect, interspersed with the seed heads of flowering perennials.

By the end of January, although the grass Achnatherum calamagrostis continues to stand upright, the Molinias and Deschampsia deteriorate.  At the end of January and early February, the whole gardens are cut back to ground level and all the biomass removed.

The deep green clipped box hedges are once again exposed and make a striking feature against the newly revealed ground.  Clumps of Hawthorns also add to the three dimensional structure.

For a photo gallery of the Europe Garden in winter, click here