The plants selected in the Green heart have been specifically designed and chosen by the Landscape designer Chris Churchman. They represent two principle themes throughout the Green Heart landscape. The first relates to diversity and climate change resilience and the second concerns the promotion of native fauna and flora. These might seem like opposed philosophies but the designer felt that the Green Heart project is big enough and ambitious enough to support both in a meaningful way.
For the main University Square, there is more focus on the celebration of diversity and experimentation. Each tree is different and each has visually striking characteristics. The Cedar of Lebanon, Tulip tree and Silver Leaved Lime are all classic parkland feature trees from the Victorian era when newly discovered species were arriving in the U.K. The handkerchief tree is a nod to Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson, arguably the U-K’s pre-eminent plant hunter who discovered this tree on one of his expeditions after training at the Birmingham Botanical gardens.
The planting for the rain gardens feature two main different types of grasses. Carex testacea and Seslaria autumnals interspersed with two evergreens, Bergenia overture and Iris Foetidisima. These plants will reach their climax in the autumn and early winter when the Iris will support clusters of red berries and the leaves of the Bergenia will turn bright red. The selection of plants that exhibit orange or red foliage will complement the facades of law and the building within Chancellor’s Court.
The main lawns are mass planted with Daffodil. The use of Narcissus Ferbruary Gold and Hawera, both early flowering varieties, will welcome in the start of the Spring Term. The use of aquilegia and Allium in the rain gardens will add a wow factor to the beds in the summer term.
For the Library Square section of the Green Heart and the amphitheater there are more native based plants. The three rows of trees in the rain gardens are Crataegus crus galli or more informally known as Christ’s Crown of Thorns. A fun fact for you is that these trees will never grow any higher than seven metres but they will spread to form three clouds of foliage. The selection of low canopy was critical in maintaining the view from North Gate to Old Joe to maintain the original landscape plans. In May they will be a mass of white blossom, however look out for one particular tree which is an unintended freak. Having both white and red flowers might be symbolic of Christ’s blood.
In addition, the trees on the two flanks of the Amphitheatre are mostly natives, Field Maple, Oak, Bird Cherry, Mountain Ash, Walnut, Crab Apple, Beech, Chestnut and Lime. However, there are a few none-natives including Giant Fir and Hemlock. In addition there are ten rare trees which are being planted as a means of increasing climate change resilience.
The plantings in the three rows of rain gardens are low maintenance herbaceous. They are gold’s and blues with a few hot spots of red. Species include Nepeta, Iris, Saunguisorba and Geranium. In the summer and autumn these beds will be a froth of colour. As with the beds in University Square the plantings are enriched with aquilegia and with Allium; Purple Sensation and Summer Drummer. The beds are planted with the first flowering daffodil, Narcissus ‘Rijinvelds Early Sensation’ which means that the beds should be in flower from late January.
The mounds either side of the Amphitheatre and the areas to the rear of the lodges are sown with wild flower seed which will come in to bloom in May-June.
Lastly, the slopes between the café and Muirhead will support native ivy and honeysuckle, both species that attract bees and bats. Nesting boxes will be set into the climber screen to allow birds to make the most of the insects and invertebrates that the plantings will support.