Beautifying brutalist Barbican

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Some of you may have read about the recently planted Beech Gardens at London’s Barbican Centre in the Saturday Telegraph’s Gardening section and as the Barbican is less than ten minutes from my office, I decided to take a look for myself.

What particularly interested me was that the planting had been designed by Dr Nigel Dunnett, best known for the Olympic Park, whose fascinating talk I attended at West Dean a couple of years ago.  Dunnett is professor of planting design and director of the Green Roof Centre at the University of Sheffield and is passionate about “green roofs, rain gardens, pictorial meadows, and naturalistic planting design”.

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The planting here is all on a roof and has consequently been constrained by weight limitations, restricting the number of trees to just fourteen, including the silver birch and Amelanchier below.

Sadly, by the time I visited a number of plants which had been flowering when the Telegraph visited were over, but there were still plenty of grasses, Gaura and Verbena bonariensis to admire.

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And whilst in the shots above the preponderance of brown from the Sisyrichium and Sedum seed heads, softens the impact of the (now Grade II listed) buildings, in the shot below, the effect of the Cornflowers is very different; bold, cheering and almost challenging against the brutal grey.

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I have to admit that sometimes I find my weekly commute to London and the resultant absence from my garden and the surrounding countryside hard.  And whilst it’s fair to say this garden wasn’t looking its best in late October, I truly applaud the City of London Corporation for commissioning it.  Even in its current state, it provided very welcome natural colour and movement against the hard lines of the buildings.

I will definitely return, maybe in spring, when apparently red species tulips flower amongst zingy Euphorbia polychroma.

It’s good to know it’s there.

5 thoughts on “Beautifying brutalist Barbican

  1. digwithdorris

    It is good to know it’s there. Thanks for sharing.
    I am a fan of the Barbican and it’s style. I love the fact that the corporation of London has decided to choose a designer to implement the planting. This seems to be the thing to do in urban areas. Rather than the parks dept putting in annuals, there seems to be an understanding that trees shrubs and perennials are better. A year round display that creates a real sense of environment.

    1. jenhumm116 Post author

      Thanks Dorris, I couldn’t agree more.
      This has been a largely ignored post – clearly not pretty enough – so thanks for commenting! In my view it’s these concrete-y vistas that benefit from the plants most!


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