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James Hitchmough plants a prairie at the Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • James Hitchmough at the Horniman, James Hitchmough's work has been on show at RHS Wisley, the Olympic Park, and now the Horniman, Ben Cook
    James Hitchmough's work has been on show at RHS Wisley, the Olympic Park, and now the Horniman, Ben Cook

The Horniman Museum and Gardens has called on renowned horticultural ecologist James Hitchmough to create a new prairie and grassland display within its South London site.

The Grasslands Garden will showcase North American prairie and South African grassland vegetation and celebrate these wild, but now critically threatened landscapes. It will link to the Horniman’s new World Gallery of anthropology, opening in June 2018.

James Hitchmough is head of landscape architecture and professor of horticultural ecology at the University of Sheffield, and designer of ecological plant environments including his random, naturalistic planting schemes at the London Olympic Park.

His bespoke design for the Horniman covers a 400 sq m rectangular area, with the North American prairie wrapping around a central South African grassland area. Plants are arranged informally, with species of different heights creating an undulating, naturalist appearance, and two paths offer visitors greater immersion in the landscape.

Most of the plants that will feature in the Grasslands Garden have been propagated on site by the Horniman’s team of gardeners, and are planted directly into a pea gravel mulch. Planting started in November, led by James Hitchmough.

James Hitchmough says:

There’ll be something for everyone in this garden, and plenty for the environment too. The garden will have a long flowering season – from March right through to October – which is designed to appeal to the human desire for beauty and drama within gardens, and which will also attract a whole range of pollinating insects.

Prairies and grasslands are amazing visually, as well as supporting nature – they’re really one of the great plant communities of the world.

Wesley Shaw, Head of Horticulture at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, says:

James’s expertise has been invaluable in creating our newest garden display and helping us bring the prairie to South London. We’ll be taking good care of this first phase of planting over the winter, and adding more plant species in spring to complete the Grasslands Garden in time for its summer opening.