Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
The Grasslands Garden at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill, south London celebrates globally threatened landscapes and highlights the beauty of grasses and their plant communities. Created in partnership with designer James Hitchmough and plantsman Neil Lucas, the garden combines naturalistic prairie and grassland central planting
based on North American prairie and South African (Drakensburg and Western Cape) grasslands, bordered by ornamental planting of 20 varieties of grasses. Both elements were designed specifically for the Horniman's 1,000-square-metre site to create a display garden that is sustainable and beautiful and that links conceptually to museum's World Gallery of anthropology by exploring indigenous people's relationships to grassland landscapes. Both the World Gallery and Grasslands Garden were completed in late June 2018.
James Hitchmough developed the design and interpretation for the central planting area in consultation with the Horniman's curatorial team to reflect on human interaction with the wild environments represented. Plants and planting methods were selected to make the most of the location, benefit biodiversity and create a sustainable garden that requires little irrigation and maintenance. It is also designed to be an immersive and inspirational garden providing a multi-sensory experience, space for reflection, and take-home messages for visitors.
Recognised authority on ornamental grasses Neil Lucas deisgned the surrounding ornamental border of grasses in regular-shaped blocks, for a bold visual effect creating a deliberate juxtaposition between formal ornamental planting more typical of a public park and the 'wild' feel of the central planting featuring unusual plants rarely seen in public spaces.
Reaction to the Grasslands Garden has been overwhelmingly positive. More than 51,000 Horniman visitors enjoyed the garden in its first six months, expressing positive views on social media. There has been an 87% increase in website traffic to the Horniman’s Gardens display page in the six months, compared to the same period the previous year. The garden has been featured in articles in several titles and in August hosted ITV Good Morning Britain's live weather report. The horticulture team at the Horniman also welcomed visits from student, professional and keen amateur gardeners.
Head of horticulture at the Horniman Museum and Gardens Wesley Shaw said: "The Grasslands Garden has been a fantastic project for myself and the Gardens team to work on. It has challenged us to propagate and grow on plant species we've never worked with before and to work with a renowned designer such as James has been a great experience. Using the gravel mulch technique has transformed maintenance on this area with very few hours spent on it through the year. The feedback from visitors has been 100% positive, and we are now attracting professional and amateur gardeners to the museum to visit the Grasslands Garden.'
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