The Leeds City Council Garden

The Leeds City Council Garden
Leeds City Council Salutes Regeneration at the Chelsea Flower Show

The concept and creation of the Munroe K sponsored Leeds City Council garden for the Chelsea Flower Show 2006 is testament to both the success of the city that leads nationally in commerce and regeneration, and the partnerships between the City Council and developers. The garden is sponsored by David Aspin of Munroe K whose innovation at the White Rose Office Park has injected new life into South Leeds. 

The objective of the design is to highlight the industrial heritage, and the current prosperity of Leeds, using both modern and traditional materials to reflect this.  The form of the garden has been inspired by the shapes of garment templates from Leeds’ historic clothing industry.

Standing in front of the garden to the left the view is framed by a low Photinia hedge, which flows around to a recreation of an old mill wall, constructed using an old style brick with a white distressed finish reminiscent of the traditional, whitewash finish in mills. To the right as the wall turns the corner it is superseded by a stainless steel wall evoking modern Leeds architecture such as the White Rose Office Park. Here the innovative patterning of the steel surface recalls the water, reeds and sky, which make up Fairburn Ings nature reserve, in Leeds.

The majority of the planting is designed to contrast with the dark greens and reds of the Photinia hedge: in the older part of the garden to the left this theme is achieved by careful use of pastel colours within the choice of bedding, herbaceous plants and shrubs. Although synonymous within a Local Authority context, the bedding will utilise both old and new cultivars offering an intriguing alternative to traditional schemes. 

As the garden moves towards the future with the modern materials and sculpture, the use of pastel colours is maintained but the plants have a more architectural feel. Marginal planting compliments the organic etching on the steel wall, and represents plants from one of the 11 national plant collections managed by the Parks and Countryside service. The plant selection reflects the need to enhance the structure of a garden whilst achieving sustainability and economic maintenance levels.

On a focal point at the rear of the garden is the garden shelter – a bold structure made of reclaimed cast iron supports with a single piece of glass for the roof. The colours of the glass shine down onto the reclaimed oak timber baulk which functions as the seating area and is a superb place to contemplate the garden and its features but also large enough to have informal business meetings, offering a healthy alternative to the confines of a meeting room.  On the left of the garden set intimately between the two beds is a similar but smaller seat providing a clearer view of the modern sculpture with its water movement.

The split level water feature, in which the modern glass sculpture sits, represents the importance of the River Aire, and the Leeds Canals in the development of Leeds whilst providing a reflection of the garden as it changes through the seasons. The sculpture also compliments the steel wall reflecting the modern architectural style apparent on the Leeds skyline today.

The White Rose Office Park is a highly desirable location to work as it offers tenants a lifestyle as well as a working environment through its unique ‘hub’ facility which contains restaurants, a café, a gymnasium and therapy rooms. The leading architectural design of the De Puy building and the two new buildings, which are currently being speculatively built at the park, were the inspiration for the modern elements of the garden. Through the use of stainless steel and a glass sculpture, the striking design of the White Rose Office Park is encapsulated.   David Aspin is so impressed with the design and execution of the garden that he has commissioned a replica to be built at the White Rose Office Park, which will arrive after the show.  It will contribute to the ambiance of the park, providing an additional feature for both tenants and visitors to enjoy.
The bulk of the construction and all the planting will be undertaken by staff who work within the Parks and Countryside Service and specialists will be engaged for certain features of the garden.  All of the plant material has been prepared and either grown or grown on at the council nursery. The process of designing, developing and constructing the garden plays a key role in providing skills development opportunities for staff, both in horticulture and landscape construction, project planning and PR.

Everything but the Plants on the Leeds City Council Garden

Embracing change and development, yet reflecting the success and current prosperity of the city of Leeds, was the brief that the Leeds City Council Parks and Countryside Service worked to for their 2006 Chelsea Flower Show Garden. The concept and creation of the Munroe K sponsored garden is testament to both.   As such the garden will showcase some unusual and interesting modern features that will live on after the Chelsea Flower Show at the Munroe K owned White Rose Office Park in South Leeds, where the complete garden will be recreated in June 2006.

Furniture is an integral part of most gardens as people are now treating their gardens as an additional room and therefore want to be able to enjoy as much time as possible in the fresh air.  The Leeds City Council garden sports two timber baulk seats within the garden, the first to the left above the lawn and the second sheltered under a glass canopy to the rear.   Made from salvaged timber, sourced from a nautical reclamation company, they represent the large timbers used to support heavy machinery in the old mills of South Leeds. The seat positioned to the rear of the garden is furnished with a curved glass canopy above, mounted on timber joist ends. The location and unusual shape of the canopy will reflect and refract the sunlight to highlight the textures and colours of the garden, and provide protection from bad weather.

No Chelsea Flower Show garden is complete without a statement piece of garden Sculpture and is this garden is no exception.  The design team were keen for it to reflect the glass and steel construction so commonly used in modern architecture and much in evidence on the new Leeds skyline.  Pride of the Valley, Sculpture Park, near Farnham, Surrey was showcasing a glass sculpture by Paul Lewis whose innovative use of glass plate created a conical, almost organic sculpture which shows how glass can add interest and play with light and reflection.  This piece was perfect for the Leeds City Council Garden and with input from water technologist, the Fountain Workshop Limited, the sculpture further enhances the garden.  Water gently cascades down providing soft ripples in the water below.  Lighting for the garden is simple and understated. The inclusion of four 50 watt uplighters into the base of the sculpture will extend enjoyment of this wonderful feature into warm, summer evenings.

The wall to the rear of the garden represents an old mill wall, rough hand thrown bricks distressed and enhanced to depict the appearance of worn whitewashed walls typically found in the mills of South Leeds. To the right of the garden behind the water feature and sculpture, a steel panel has been introduced to reflect the modern materials used in the New Leeds Architecture. These modern materials are representative of the striking buildings at the White Rose Office Park. The surface has been heat treated to give the appearance of reeds and grasses providing an organic slant, and an association with Fairburn Ings, a nature reserve situated in South Leeds. 

Looking to the right of the garden the eye is drawn to a large two tier water feature, the change in levels marked with a stainless steel edge with small cut-outs to enhance the water flow from the upper to the lower feature. The two levels represent the association between the River Aire, and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, both of which were of great importance to the industry of Leeds. Looking through the water to the base of the feature, glass crystals translate a natural green cast giving the impression of depth to the water whilst providing texture where light is gently refracted.

The design ethos of this exciting contemporary garden with historical references represents the evolution of a great northern, industrial city into a modern centre of business, commerce and technology.   Garden features, architecture and plants will be used to portray these links whilst providing changes in texture and form. The shapes used in the formation of the wall, steel sheet, water feature outline, lawn and planting areas suggest the links to previous industry, being reminiscent of the templates used in garment manufacturing and tailoring.

Bedding Plants both Sexy and Relevant!

Leeds City Council Garden Sponsored by Munroe K will be sure to shake up any preconceived ideas about traditional bedding plants and show how to use them in new and unorthodox ways.  The garden design aims to highlight the industrial heritage, and the current prosperity of Leeds, using both modern and traditional materials to reflect this.  The form of the garden has been inspired by the shapes of garment templates from Leeds’ historic clothing industry.

Alternanthera dentate ‘Purple Knight’ is traditionally used in carpet bedding but this particular variety has been bred for seasonal bedding which Leeds City Council use for replenishing summer bedding schemes throughout the city parks. Chosen for its strikingly dark purple foliage which grows 16 -18 inches high, it is used to contrast with plants that have silver foliage. 

Centaurea gymnocarpa is a traditional dot bedding plant used as an accent plant in bedding schemes but has fallen out of favour in recent years.  This plant has glorious feathery silver foliage, is drought tolerant and therefore excellent for dry areas.  Originating from the Italian island of Capraia, it is in the top 50 threatened plants of the Mediterranean.  Most local authorities stopped using it as they cut back on bedding schemes but Leeds City Council Parks and Countryside Service see great merit in this plant and have continued to propagate it for over thirty years and currently are probably the only remaining sources of plant stock in the country.  The overall character of the plant is very majestic with silver foliage that looks particularly spectacular with dark red plants.

Leeds City Council hold eleven National Plant Collections (unique for any local authority) with one of them being the National Collection of Large Leaved Hostas, held at The Hollies Park in the city.  The Chelsea garden will showcase twelve different cultivars that are representative of the National Collection.  Hosta halcyon is a very attractive blue leaved moisture loving plant and will be planted around the water areas to the front right hand side of the garden.

Chief Recreation Officer, Denise Preston said, ‘”We were one of the first local authorities to support the work of the NCCPG and have continued to maintain our eleven national collections in an effort to conserve plants that are uncommon or slipping out of commerce. With over 65 million visitors to our parks, we can also communicate the value of these collections and of course the work of the NCCPG’”

Ligularia Britt-Marie Crawford is a striking dark foliaged herbaceous perennial, tolerant of most garden conditions.  It sports medium sized orangey yellow daisy like flowers.  This plant can introduce colour via accents given by its contrasting foliage and illustrates perfectly that one need not always use flowers for colour.

Tongues will wag and curiosity will abound with Leeds City Council’s unusual choice of hedging. Photinia x fraseri’ Red Robin’ had been selected partially as a challenge and an experiment but mostly because it is evergreen with spectacular scarlet spring foliage and it will create a very attractive feature in the garden. This unique hedge provides privacy, has spring interest with its bright red young foliage and subsequent small white flowers, and as an evergreen it provides an excellent foil for other plants,  Leeds City Council are committed to using plants that contrast well with other plants and choosing plants that have many attributes.  Some might ask if Photinia is hardy enough but climatic change is now allowing us to use less hardy plants in new and challenging ways.

Rheum palmatum ‘Ace of Hearts’– (ornamental rhubarb) has been chosen for its dark foliage and heart shaped leaves, perfect for a small garden it grows to two feet with a spread of about a metre. Herbaceous plants are the lifeblood of Leeds City Council’s parks and gardens as they are regularly lifted, split and propagated in order to populate the city’s parks.

Munroe K, garden sponsor and owner of the White Rose Office Park in South Leeds are committed to installing a replica of the Leeds City Council Chelsea Flower Show Garden at the White Rose Office Park immediately after the show.  Managing Director David Aspin said “White Rose Office Park is already a unique and pleasurable environment in which to work and I feel that the installation of this spectacular Leeds inspired garden will add another unique element to the park.  Workers will be able to relax, unwind and take in the beauty of this garden during their breaks and lunch hours.  It will contribute to the ambiance of the park, providing an additional feature for both tenants and visitors to enjoy”

Leeds City Council Garden Plant List

Acanthus spinosus
Aconitum x cammarum 'Bicolor'
Agapanthus africanus
Agapanthus africanus 'Albus'
Allium giganteum
Alternanthera 'Purple Knight'
Anaphalis margaritacea
Asplenium scolopendrium
Asplenium trichomanes
Astilbe "Venus"
Astilbe 'Deutschland'
Betula utilis var jacquemontii
Campanula latiloba 'Alba'
Ceanothus 'Concha' AGM
Centaurea dealbata
Centaurea gymnocarpa
Crambe cordifolia
Cynara cardunculus
Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata'
Dryopteris wallichiana
Echinops bannaticus 'Taplow Blue'
Filipendula rubra "Venusta"
Gunnera magellanica
Gunnera manicata
Hakonechloa macra aureola
Hedera helix
Heuchera "Can Can"
Heuchera "Plum Pudding"
Heuchera "Ring of Fire"
Heuchera 'Amethyst Mist'
Hosta "Albo Marginata"
Hosta "Aureo Marginata"
Hosta "Beauty Substance"
Hosta "Candy Hearts"
Hosta "Carol"
Hosta "Elizibeth Campbell"
Hosta "Ellerbroek"
Hosta "Francee"
Hosta "Nigrescens"
Hosta "Royal Standard"
Hosta "Snowdon"
Hosta El Capitan"
Hosta Tardiana "Halcyon"
Iris sibirica'Perry's Blue'
Iris sibirica'Snow Queen'
Ligularia "Britt Marie Crawford"
Macleaya microcarpa dioicus
Matteuccia struthiopteris
Miscanthus sinensis variegatus
Miscanthus zebrinus
Persicaria bistorta "Superba"
Petasites hybridus
Phlox paniculata 'Alba Grandiflora'
Phormium Alison Blackman
Phormium tenax
Phormium tenax ‘Dazzler’
Phormium tenax ‘Purpureum’
Phormium tenax variegata
Phormium Yellow Wave
Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin'
Phyllostachys nigra
Polystichum setiferum
Primula denticulata hyb.
Rheum palmatum ‘Atrosanguineum’
Salvia "East Friesland"
Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria'
Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria White'
Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Purple Dome’
Veronica sp. 'lavender charm'
Vinca major 'Variegata'
Viola cornuta

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