This week the Garden Bridge planting team visited nurseries in the UK and northern Europe to select some of the plants and trees that will feature on the Bridge, set to open in 2018.
The Bridge will link the tree lined South Bank to the Victoria Embankment Gardens and Temple Gardens on the North Bank providing an ecological corridor which connects green spaces on either sides of the river.
The garden will provide an ever-changing seasonal landscape incorporating a 2500m² planting area for wildlife-friendly tree and plant species fostering biodiversity in the heart of the capital.
The Garden Bridge’s landscape designer Dan Pearson has taken inspiration from plant cultivation in London over the centuries, starting with the wild marshlands on the South Bank before reaching the ornamental gardens of the North Bank. The five landscape areas will also reflect the varying climates along the length of the Bridge and the exposed location over the river.
Tree selection was led by Dan who has been working with landscaping contractor Willerby Landscapes. The journey for the delivery of the garden element of the Bridge is clearly underway.
Report from Dan Pearson, landscape designer for the Garden Bridge:
“This week we started the process of earmarking the trees, which will provide the taller structural planting on the bridge. To get to this point we have completed extensive research to identify appropriate species and material which will cope with the conditions, and it is good to finally see the plants in the flesh.
“The first stop on the trip was to experienced nursery partner – Deepdale Trees in Bedfordshire. The Team at Deepdale will gather together the trees selected for two whole years ahead of planting on the Bridge. The specimens will be grown in Bedfordshire in an exposed position on the nursery to acclimatise flora to the unique environment over the River Thames, which will become their home.
“We inspected the first trees that are already in stock at the nursery, ‘soft-tagging’ the ones that
fitted our specification of height and width. This is very important to the planting scheme, which
has been carefully planned to frame beautiful views of London.
“Rootball size is also key to the success of the planting. The roots will act as anchor system forming an intertwining mesh in the soil to provide foundations for the vegetation. To enhance the root development further the plants will be potted up into the airpot system which stimulates a fibrous and balanced root system and hence good establishment.”
“The ultimate element to selection is the character and the material for multi-stemmed trees which
will flex in the wind and seamlessly blend with the naturalistic planting.
“The tagging trip extended that evening to mainland Europe to meet experts from nurseries and get their advice about the kinds of trees we are looking for. Over two days we were able to compare and contrast varieties, get the views of the expert nurserymen and make initial selections.
“Some of the trees, were selected for specific positions on the Bridge and for their potential to become fully grown trees of up to 15 metres. Over time these specimens will assume both character and help to provide certain locations with their own sense of place.
“Given the time of year it was a perfect time to assess the berry bearing trees that have been
selected for autumn colour and for their foraging potential, which will help enhance wildlife as part
of the ecology of the Bridge.
“We hand-picked three different crab apple varieties, sorbus and hawthorns and a fine young apple tree with delicious fruit. Their spring blossom will be joined by a grove of Magnolia ‘Merril’ which is a white flowered form which was showing butter yellow foliage in the field. The vibrant colours used in the plant choices will attract pollinators enhancing biodiversity on the Bridge and in neighbouring environments.
“The next round of work will be to match the soft-tagged trees to their positions on the plans and to fine tune the list before locking down the orders so that the trees can be brought back to the UK and the process begun of settling them in.”