RHS Hyde Hall reveals Mediterranean masterplan

The RHS has unveiled the latest phase of a bold masterplan for RHS Hyde Hall in Essex which includes modernist planting inspired by the Olympics' landscape and a vast Mediterranean field with olives and vines.

The latest phase of the ongoing masterplan includes a belt of 80,000 trees kinking around the 150ha site with tree clusters defining areas within. These currently include large tracts of hay meadows, some of which will be turned into 25ha of wildflower meadows.

Curator Ian Le Gros is working with plantsman and academic Professor James Hitchmough, who helped mastermind wildflower planting at the Olympics. The pair are trialling 134 perennials’ species on sandy and heavier soils.

"We have looked at the Olympic Park, which has used a similar model," said Le Gros. "We will have three meadows: an eastern steppe meadow, mid-America meadow and a more thuggish European, heavier type of meadow."

Le Gros said his team was also toying with a more modish type of planting for other areas of Hyde Hall, which include a dry garden, a bog garden, a pond, Queen Mother’s Garden, vegetable plots and formal gardens with rose bushes overlooking box hedging.

"Parts of the Olympic Park have a more designed look and we think that may work in areas such as our Australia and New Zealand garden, which could have shards of interlocking plants. Right now it has a botanical-garden feel; sometimes we would like to be a bit freer."

Rolling fields to the south of the site meanwhile will become a Mediterranean area in the next couple of years, sporting vines, hops, herbs, olives and rows of lavender as part of a more left-field than traditional creative process Le Gros calls "pushing the envelope".

The masterplan, designed by Colvin & Moggridge in 1996, was changed by the Landscape Agency in 2008 and has evolved ever since. This recent phase is costing around £2m and includes an enlarged play area, heritage orchard and two courtyard gardens, being built now.

"The masterplan reflects the truism about a garden never being complete," he said. "We currently plant around 4,000 trees a year while land varies from open hay meadows to around 30 acres of intensive horticulture, bulbs and formal planting."

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