Royal Parks apprentices race against time for London Marathon

Apprentices from The Royal Parks will play an important role in this Sunday's London Marathon, by decorating the winner's podiums with plants grown in Hyde Park.

L-R Royal Parks apprentices Verity Joiner, Brent Wheeler and Bradley Hillyard. Image: TRP
L-R Royal Parks apprentices Verity Joiner, Brent Wheeler and Bradley Hillyard. Image: TRP

On 24 April, professional athletes, enthusiastic joggers and costume-wearing fundraisers will run a gruelling 26.2 miles from Greenwich Park to the finish line on The Mall in St James's Park.

Schizanthus plants grown by the apprentices will adorn the podiums on The Mall, along with mixed ferns, green ivy and red begonias. The televised marathon will be watched by millions of people across 196 different countries.

Since January of this year, third-year Royal Parks apprentices Verity Joiner, Bradley Hillyard and Brent Wheeler have been growing the Schizanthus from seed in the Hyde Park nursery. The apprentices are employed by OCS, the landscape maintenance contractor for St James’s Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Schizanthus pinnatus, also known as Poor Man's Orchid and butterfly flower, grows blooms that look very similar to orchids. The plant dislikes extremes of hot or cold preferring cool, moist conditions.

Joiner, based at St James's Park, said: "It's been a real honour to play a part in one of the world's greatest marathons. Growing Schizanthus on this scale has provided us with excellent experience of propagation which will prove very useful for our end-of-year qualification."

The nursery located in Hyde Park supplies the central Royal Parks with over 400,00 plants a year including the Memorial Gardens in front of Buckingham Palace. On the day of the marathon, the Memorial Gardens will provide the backdrop for the podiums and the winners


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