Greater Manchester Green City Region. Creating a greener, greater city region differently

Manchester Garden at Chelsea RHS Show

Conversations About Resilience: The Manchester Garden

Awarded a silver medal, The Manchester Garden was a first for Greater Manchester, using the most prestigious horticultural show in the world to raise important questions about how cities manage urban green infrastructure in the face of climate change.

Designed by Exterior Architecture the garden celebrated Greater Manchester’s resilience and adaptability. The garden showcased four different but integrated areas of planting. An urban area used plants such as Dryopteris, Euphorbia, Geranium and Salvia to illustrate potential characteristics of urban planting in a hotter, dryer climate. Alongside this, planting for a sustainable urban drainage system (SuDS) featured glorious Camassia and Irises to show how modern drainage systems can use nature based approaches that align with the natural water cycle. No less spectacular were the Alliaria, Eryngium, Miscanthus and Centranthus in the remediation plot, a beautiful tranquil space harnessing the power of the natural environment to clean soils tarnished by industrial pollution. And, sweeping round the back of the garden, was an area of parkland planting, celebrating the importance of parks in our urban landscape with plants such as Alliums, Baptisia, Orlaya and Cynara.

The garden contained ten trees representative of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester. Plane, Pine Hazel, Dawn Redwood, Locust and Mountain Ash are all suggested tree types for tomorrow’s climate and were sourced in partnership with Manchester’s City of Trees  initiative which aims to plant a tree for every resident within a generation – that’s 3 million trees!

The Manchester Garden offered a new perspective on post-industrial cities, reaching out to a fresh and influential audience to highlight the reinvention of Manchester. In addition to offering a planting palette that championed sustainability, resilience and the value of green space within cities, a sculpture by Manchester-based artist Liam Hopkins wove its way around the garden.

Reflecting the importance of materials in Greater Manchester’s industries the sculpture told Greater Manchester’s story from one time ‘cottonopolis’ to today being the home of graphene, one of the world’s lightest, thinnest and strongest nanomaterials. A conversation with Liam illustrated that the concepts behind the sculpture are rich and considered, with both cotton and graphene having a hexagonal crystalline structure that he reflects in his Morpheus sculpture made of countless carbon fibre hexagonal plates pulled into fluid organic shapes.

A water feature in the garden also recognised Greater Manchester’s industrial past and its modern renaissance. The water feature told the story of the region’s major waterways, the rivers Irwell, Irk and Medlock which pumped life into the city, helped it grow and made it possible for its industries to thrive. Today the rivers continue to support industry but also offer recreational and leisure space amongst the natural environment of green riverbanks.

The hard landscaping in the garden included a paved area created with beautiful local sandstone, named after a founding city elder, Sir Joseph Whitworth, together with hexagonal-shaped blocks which many visitors said reminded them of honeycomb and seemed to reflect the interest the local bees also shared in the garden, adding to its visitor numbers!

After a long and successful week, the garden has been disassembled and its component parts are being relocated to Greater Manchester. Each borough will find a home for one of the ten trees, whilst many of the plants will be used in the gardens of Wythenshaw Hall in south Manchester which was subject to an arson attack in 2016 and, after painstaking restoration, is expected to reopen this September. Some plants will also be used to demonstrate how the time volunteers give to Friends of Parks groups across the city is valued, gifting them their own piece of The Manchester Garden.

Talking to visitors to the garden, key takeaways for resilience included:

  • The importance of every garden in our cities and the green benefits they can bring when not converted to offroad parking
  • The role of ecosystems in protecting the city from disaster risk, whether our upland moors absorbing rainwater and regulating flood risk, our trees offering shade in high temperatures or the plants that clean our air and soils
  • The contribution green infrastructure will have if Greater Manchester is to achieve its target to be carbon-neutral by 2038, 12 years ahead of the national government target of 2050.

The Manchester Garden showcased Greater Manchester’s commitment to resilience and illustrated the ingenuity, spirit and pride that will continue Manchester’s resilience journey into the future.

Manchester Garden Trees
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