SuperbloomPosted by Catharine on August 22nd 2022
Where? In the Moat of the Tower of London. The big old mown lawn has been covered in 10,000 metric tonnes of low nutrient, free draining soil. Contoured on top of the original grass and with careful links to the Victorian plumbing ducts below.
What? A landscape sown from seeds, Nigel Dunnett, horticulturalist, has been working this way in the public domain for quite a while: reference The Olympic Park and greening up Sheffield. The notion is to bring the beauty of nature into urban spaces, empty or neglected and make a smashing statement of colour. “Superbloom” refers to the vibrant massing of flowers that break out in wild spaces, where humans haven’t interfered.
Why? Commissioned by Historic Royal Palaces for the latest Jubilee and with Dunnett’s help there has been loud shout out for the growing message to be shared with schools. It is vital learning. We need to green our urban spaces to create cooling; for biodiversity and for wellbeing.
I visited last Friday in the tailwinds of a shatteringly hot summer. As you can imagine, it was not superblooming at all. A vale of seed heads were punctuated here and there by sunflowers in clarets and vanillas, the late cosmos looking pretty cheerful and the red orache - which is a sort of tall dark spinachy plant - rattling its seeds. Interesting to see what looked good in death - vipers bugloss gone over, poppy heads, achilleas like soup plats. Rather like selecting a dried flower garden and, much more important, a lesson in what looks good in the obvious face of climate change.
The seeds will drop, the patterns will mix and the show will repeat itself next summer. It is a shame that elements of the design, where the ground had been banked up, a large woven willow structure and so on will have to go for reasons of planning control.
The greening of grey space allows nature to come back in, promotes healthy activity in the soil and draws in pollinators to weave and buzz through the flowers. The more green links we can have, the more we can repair man-made damage and plan for the future.