Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sheffield - city of flowers?

Sheffield. Once 'steel city', then 'The People's Republic of South Yorkshire', now just another post-industrial regeneration site. BUT for those in the know in the garden and landscape world, a centre for good and wonderfully colourful ideas.  

 About 12 years ago Nigel Dunnett (know Professor) in the university Dept. of Landscape started working on annual seed mixes. The idea being to develop something which could be used by local councils to quickly and cheaply do something bright and uplifting, not just on roundabouts and parks but problem housing estates. These pictures were taken on the Manor and Castle Estates.
 They have been very successful, and hugely morale-inspiring to the folk who live in what can be very forlorn areas. I'm not suggesting that passive enjoyment of beautiful flowers significently reduces the rate of car theft, drug taking and the other traditional local pastimes, but it may do something. Nigel's experience in talking to local people is that the flowers are a huge morale-booster.

 Actually, the annual flower mixes are part of a much larger package of environment-led community regeneration organised by Green Estates, a not-for-profit who sell the seed under the brand name of Pictorial Meadows.

 There are now about half a dozen different mixes, based on colour or height. Each one includes around a dozen species, which flowers in succession. From a March sowing, flowers can be expected from June/July through to November.

Annuals actually vary in how long they live, from 'ephemerals' like field poppies which are nine-day wonders to longer-lived species like Californian poppies which can flower for months, and well into the winter given mild weather.

Nigel has also worked on perennial mixes, such as these, although they are slower to establish.

From left, Sheffield PhD students Jia Yuan and Ye Hang, Nigel Dunnett and Amalia Robredo.
I had gone to Sheffield for  a flying visit with Amalia Robredo after a Gardens Illustrated tour of Berlin and eastern Germany. Amalia is a pioneer garden and landscape designer who works in the coastal area of Uruguay. She has recently published the first popular guide to wildflowers of the area, with a view to encouraging their use in landscaping, and planted the first locally-native green roof. Sheffield gave her lots of inspiration.
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Liz said...


I wish they had them as good as this elsewhere in the city - definitely inspirational. There are some relatively nearby to where I live although it's just a simple strip by the side of the road - would be amazing if the entire area was flowers instead then it would definitely have more of an impact. As it is people will just walk through or around them to continue their antisocial stuff - I don't actually know if they do though as I don't live close enough to experience it first-hand.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. I especially appreciated the last 2 perennial border: the yellow one is perfectly structured and the other has some fresh color combinations. I wonder if the paler salvia is s. sclarea or a pratensis hybrid.

elaine said...

I think this is a brilliant idea and would love to try something like this on a smaller scale in my own garden. Thanks for sharing.

Cally said...

Wow, that all looks lovely, never imagined I'd want to visit Sheffield for flowers but now its on my wishlist. I hope they inspire more areas to follow suit.

Anonymous said...

I'm a great fan of Nigel Dunnett's work in Sheffield, I just wish more places would adopt his ideas. A couple of years ago we drove past a roundabout in St.Austell on our way to Heligan and it had been sown with meadow flowers and looked so beautiful. The contrast between the delicate beauty of the flowers and the cars and buildings of modern life was such a good idea. Sadly I haven't seen this repeated on my travels. Although financial constraints mean my local council hasn't been out with the mowers and strimmers as much and the wildflowers in the verges this summer were a great improvement on mown grass.

Dunwoody Flowers said...

Great post Noel! The pictures are great! We have a few Californian poppies planted on our property.