Alongside these, are new areas which are just as well loved by local residents and visitors alike. The Pleasure Gardens in the south of the Park feature prairie style planting from the world-renowned designer Piet Oudolf, while Mandeville Place features an urban orchard with its very own species of apple, the Paradice.
Gardens and Open Spaces
The 2012 Gardens pay tribute to Britain's long history of exploration, trade and plant collecting and their impact on the great horticultural diversity and variety of British gardens. Featuring 70,000 plants from 250 different species across the world, the Gardens are divided into four climatic zones, each drawing upon the ecological character of habitats found in the wild.
The Gardens are a unique fusion of formal and informal plantings. Stretching almost a kilometre, the contemporary, perennial plantings combine and are interwoven with structural strips with wide-swathes of intermingled plants set out in a more naturalistic style. Bold blocks of repeating colours and textures provide a sense of continuity.The planting is highly structured, designed for dramatic, year-round effect. The plants themselves were carefully selected not only for their beauty but also for their durability and value in attracting bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other species for increasing biodiversity.
EuropeThis Garden is based on a traditional hay meadow, but includes more robust species that flower for longer. From the 14th century onwards, the influx of plants from Europe that were already a key source for most garden plants from the classical civilisation increased with the growth of trade and exploration.
North AmericaFlowers in this Garden are found in North American prairies. Plant collecting from North America was at its height in the 1800s, and it is still a key source for summer flower colour in British gardens today.
Southern HemisphereThis Garden was inspired by the exotic species found in South Africa's Drakensberg range. Flora from South Africa are quite dramatic in colour and form, and the Drakensberg range is a prime example of this. With the warming of the climate, many South African plants are increasingly suitable for British gardens. Plants from South Africa were all the rage in the 19th century.
AsiaThis Garden focuses on structure and foliage from the edges of Asian woodlands. Most of Asia was closed to trade and exploration until the 19th century, and when their ports opened for commerce, botanists found a long-established tradition of horticulture in many Asian cultures that outpaced much of what was being practiced in Europe.
Creating the 2012 Gardens was quite an undertaking. Rare seeds, cuttings and bulbs were tracked down from across the UK and abroad. These include hundreds of South African plants grown from a small collection in Ireland and seeds collected in South Africa; thousands of rare white chrysanthemums; as well as Asian lilies grown from clumps provided by specialists in the UK.You can download the full plant list here.
One of the Park’s best kept secrets, the Great British Garden was created by renowned garden designer Sarah Price, working from a brief set by two amateur horticulturalists, Rachel Read and Hannah Clegg, winners of a competition by the Royal Horticultural Society to design this beautiful corner of the Park.
The Great British Garden intermingles rich and varied new planting designed for the London 2012 Games with existing trees that had crowded the banks of the canal for decades. These trees (mostly Sycamore) now form a natural barrier between the tranquil gardens and the hustle and bustle of the Stadium which sits over the water.
The Garden is designed to take visitors on a journey of discovery through three gardens themed on the colours of Olympic medals: Bronze, Silver and Gold. The bronze section features reds, oranges and other fiery tones; the silver section features a human sized sundial set within an area of silver coloured paving, and in the gold section, spiral planting led visitors to a stately oak tree. One of the oak trees in the gardens was grown in Kew Gardens from an acorn collected from the tree that Baron Pierre De Coubertin planted in 1894 to thank the citizens of Much Wenlock for inspiring the founding of the modern Olympic Games. Beyond this large oak is one of the Park’s frog ponds, providing valuable habitat and beautiful backdrop to the garden.
During the Games, archways that link the sections of the Great British Garden together were covered with good luck messages for athletes which visitors had threaded into the foliage.
The Park’s meadows feature beautiful displays of wildflowers around lawns that are perfect for a picnic. These meadows were the largest of their kind when installed for the Olympics and provide colour, texture and are valuable habitats. These lie in the north of the Park, along the banks of the River Lea, and include the gently sloped heart shaped lawn which is host to the Olympic Rings, as well as wide open areas planted with mature London plane trees.
The parklands reflect the River Lea’s place at the heart of the area, with acres of wetlands and riverside meadows that are home to hundreds of different birds, waterfowl and amphibians.
In the north of the Park, a large wetland bowl, carved out of the river’s path, not only provides beautiful, sloping lawns and meadows for visitors, but also acting as a natural flood defence: when water levels rise, the bowl floods by design, protecting new housing and venues and 5,000 existing properties from a one in a hundred year storm.
Around the river and its ponds feature 300,000 wetland plants grown in Norfolk and Wales, including thirty different species of native rushes, reeds, grasses, sedges, wet wildflower and irises - some of which came from the Lower Lea Valley as source stock.
Carefully designed channels called 'bioswales' are embedded into the meadows across the Park to capture rainwater as it runs off into the Lea, nurturing habitats and diverse plant species as it does.
Taking inspiration from the use of apples in the 2012 Opening Ceremony, Mandeville Place is a celebration of the success of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The name Mandeville Place has been chosen to reflect the fact that the Paralympics started in Stoke Mandeville, England in 1952, and after the 2012 Mascot, Mandeville.
It’s based around a small orchard. Working with local disabled people, Churchman Landscape Architects and Studio Weave, the area brings together apple and other fruit trees with man-made elements, such as a pavilion made from the original Athletes’ Village Paralympic Wall. Fruit trees native to the homes of the 34 ParalympicsGB gold medallists from London 2012 have been planted and carved into the ground are the Paralympic values of Courage, Determination, Inspiration and Equality as well as Professor Stephen Hawking’s memorable quote from the Opening Ceremony - ‘Don’t look down at your feet, look up at the sky; be curious’.A national schools’ competition was run to find a name for a brand new variety of apple that is now grown there. The delicious new variety of apple was created by mixing pollen from different apple blossoms and is only the third new apple variety to have been created in UK in the past 50 years. Children were encouraged to come up with a name that will reflect the legacy of the Paralympic Games. The winning name, 'Paradice Gold', was submitted by three separate schools and combines the word Paralympic with the first letter of each of the Paralympic values; Determination, Inspiration, Courage and Equality.