Part of the 200-acre Olympics Park in Stratford, east London, the World Gardens were designed to showcase flowers and perennial plants from across the globe. They were arranged in four semi-naturalistic planting communities or themed zones for Europe, North America, the Southern Hemisphere and Asia.
Running alongside the river for half a mile, the gardens are situated between the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre and were designed to provide a major attraction for the 2012 Olympic Games and, as part of their legacy, the following 50 years.
The garden designs included 120,000 plants, many raised from seed. They featured 150 species, many of which were to be used for the first time commercially in the UK.
Three years before the Olympics, Palmstead completed the online CompeteFor registration process. After providing the necessary documents and researching the plants that would be required, the nursery was invited to tender, and was successful in its application.
Palmstead sourced the plants that had been chosen to create distinctive atmospheres in each of the four zones: luminous purple moor grass, Molinia ‘Transparent’, and shade-tolerant native Deschampsia grass for the Europe garden; colourful Echinacea, fragrant prairie grass and the 3m tall Silphium laciniatum or ‘compass plants’ for the North America garden; Gladiolus and Agapanthus for the Southern Hemisphere garden; Hosta, Iris, lilies and ornamental grasses for the Asia garden.
The nursery traced many rare plants, 30% of which had not previously been grown commercially. They had to be carefully tracked down and often requested as donations from people’s private collections.
One especially tall Hosta, for example, could not be sourced through the trade, but with help from specialists at RHS Wisley and from the head gardener at the Saville Garden, the Royal Landscape donated some clumps, which could be used for propagation.
The public responded in huge numbers to the World Gardens, and the flower-rich perennial meadows and the colourful gold annual meadows. The gardens introduced new varieties, as well as new ways and styles of planting.
Palmstead’s sophisticated operations and automated systems, meant that the necessary quantities of plants could be produced, and that they met the critical, precise planning and scheduling requirements ahead of the opening ceremony. The majority of plants were planted in 2011 and had time to establish and display well in "Games Time".
The nursery’s extensive glasshouses, sophisticated facilities and expertise also ensured that the cultivation of the plants was not adversely affected by the especially severe winter before the Olympics. The nursery seeks future opportunities for contract growing and is proficient in delivering complex plant lists for customers.