Merton Borders - seeds of change
The Botanic Garden is working in collaboration with Professor James Hitchmough from the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield to develop this area.
At 955m2 these borders form the largest single cultivated area in the Botanic Garden. They are being developed as an example of sustainable horticultural development, with the aim of having minimal impact on the environment in the long term.
The planting is based on the ecological study of natural plant communities to produce a highly ornamental yet extremely sustainable display. 85% of the plants are being established through the direct sowing of seed. This has two benefits:
- It is more sustainable than planting thousands of plants grown in peat based composts and plastic containers.
- Sowing from seed makes it possible to establish plants at much higher densities per square metre. This increases the diversity of the plantings and ensures a long succession of flowering through the season.
The plants have been selected for their ability to withstand drought conditions and originate from seasonally dry grassland communities in three regions of the world:
- The Central to Southern Great Plains (USA) through to the Colorado Plateau and into California
- East South Africa at latitudes above 1000m
- Southern Europe to Turkey and across Asia to Siberia
Selecting plant species from these drier plant communities will build in a greater tolerance of warmer, drier summers.
It will take a year or two before we see the first flowering, but once established the planting will be colourful from spring to autumn and will:
- be a naturalistic, dynamic style of planting
- be drought tolerant and require no artificial irrigation
- require no staking
- require no application of fertiliser
- not require intensive management practices such as division, soil improvement and replanting on a regular basis, which is the case with conventional plantings