Great to meet Nigel Dunnett at the opening of the John Lewis rain garden in Victoria, yesterday. Professor Dunnett is responsible for making wildflower meadows popular again following the success of his beautiful creations at the London Olympics .
The rain garden couldn’t be more different from the vibrancy and wildness of the planting in the Queen Elizabeth park. It’s smart, tidy and clean, but still includes more than 30 plants selected for their attractiveness to pollinators, and ability to cope in shade and have their roots in water. They include lots of pink Bergenia ‘Overture’, forget-me-not like blue flowers and sliver follage of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, and the white brush-like flowers of Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’. All these are in flower now. They’ll be followed later in the summer by Rudbeckia, Kniphofias (Red hot pokers) , Asters and the architectural Acanthus hungarlcus.
This is the first rain garden in central London; “a pioneering project that be the shape of the future as we adapt our urban environment to climate change”, said Dunnett. He thanked the John Lewis partnership for being “courageous” in taking the risk.
The cobbled area in front of the JLP HQ had seen problem flooding in recent years. The rain garden will help use rainwater runoff from the surrounding buildings, as well as create a biodiverse, attractive green space for people and wildlife to enjoy. It will look more attractive as it matures.
How it works – instead of rainwater runoff going into the drains which can lead to flooding after a torrential downpour, guttering has been diverted so rain water is collected and stored in a large raised planter (rather like a water butt, but with plants in it) with any overspill then slowly running into the garden itself where it will be soaked up by the plants, soil and two newly planted majestic Italian alder trees.
This seemingly simple idea took two and a half years to come to fruition and about £50k to create. It’s been designed by Nigel Dunnett, who is professor of planting design and urban horticulture at Sheffield University, and The Landscape Agency , and delivered by Landform consultants for the Victoria BID.
The project received funding and support from the Mayor of London’s Greening the BIDs project and Natural England via the Cross River Partnership regeneration agency.
Signage will be going up soon to explain to the thousands of people who pass by the area each day what the rain garden aims to achieve. Let’s hope it will set an example that many more companies will follow.
Dunnett suggested to the JLP that they may want to consider installing the next rain garden in a Waitrose car park!