James Hitchmough, celebrated for his annual meadows for the London 2012 Olympic Park, designed our Dry Meadow. A perennial planting sown mostly from seed, the Dry Meadow features drought-tolerant species from steppes, prairies and grassy plains from all over the world, and includes some more temperate species that nevertheless must withstand periods of summer drought. The seed for this modern meadow was mixed by hand into combinations to suit the different shaded and sunny conditions that even this quite modest-sized site affords, and provides a long season of interest.
The overall concept uses a low layer of mostly winter evergreen or semi-evergreen herbaceous plant as a multispecies tapestry punctuated by hemispherical bump-like forms, tall grasses and semi-transparent flowering emergents, set off by the dark green yew hedge.
The plants chosen are all adapted to survive moisture stress and will knit together to give a long flowering season from April to October. There’s a strong emphasis on Mediterranean and steppe environments from the Colorado plateau through to central Europe and Asia, but with species also drawn from the dryer parts of the North American prairies and the summer rainfall regions of South Africa. The selection should do well in our dry Cambridge climate.
The show begins early in the year with oxslips, cowslips and primroses, followed with the big-fruit evening primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa ssp incana, and wholeleaf Indian paintbrush, Castilleja integra. The wholeleaf Indian paintbrush comes predominantly from the Americas and is usually semi-parasitic, growing partly on the roots of other plants.
By mid summer the foxtail lilies, Eremurus stenophyllus, native to the dry mountainous regions of central Asia, airy Dianthus carthusianorum and golden giant oat, Stipa gigantea, have created a rich mid level of waving wands. Jewel-like blues and scarlets come from the several species of Penstemon included. Amongst the later species to flower is the spectacular South African daisy, Berkheya purpurea, producing large mauve to purple flowers against very spiny foliage and stems.
A species list can be downloaded from the link to the left.