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2012 Olympic Wildflowers & Janet Peaker Passes

Did you see the many wildflowers in Olympic Park while viewing the 2012 Games? And, my friend Janet Peaker passes.
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

August 12, 2012

Above, Olympic wildflowers to one side of the Olympic Stadium, photo courtesy; Olympic Park plantings on the night of the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies; and a close-up of the wildflowers as in the first shot. Below, a typical roadway planting within Olympic Park; and one of the nosegay bouquets for a Gold Medal winner as described in the article, last four photos courtesy Final photo shows special bedding of the British flag in Regent’s Park, photo courtesy London Media Centre.

As is the case with millions of others, the past two weeks in our home have been spent watching many hours of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I think CTV have done a marvelous job of covering the games, and the main host, Brian Williams (an old colleague of mine at CFRB in Toronto) has again been superb. I wonder what will happen with the Rio Games in 2016 when the CBC returns as the Canadian TV presenter. Will Brian return to the CBC? Good question!

The one part of the Olympic facilities we (or at least I) did not see much of was the huge plantings of wildflowers carried out under the direction of Professor Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield. The planting team took two years of trials and research.

Riverbank meadows of bee-friendly cornflowers, marigolds, Californian poppies and prairie flowers were especially designed to bloom gold for the opening ceremony.

“The sowing of the last of more than ten football fields’ worth of nectar-rich wildflower meadows marked the final preparations of the gardens, lawns, woodlands and wetlands,” said a representative.

The bulk of the planting of the 4,000 trees, 300,000 wetland plants, 15,000 square metres of lawns and more than 150,000 perennial plants and bushes in the Olympic Park and Village was completed in the autumn of 2012 by the Olympic Delivery Authority. Throughout the winter and spring the team of specialist gardeners and horticulturists wrapped trees and cut back thousands of early-flowering plants to ensure they reached their best in July.

A month before Olympic Park opened Professor Dunnett said: “After years of preparation and two practice runs we have sown the final meadows that will run like a ribbon of gold around the Olympic Stadium. In just a few weeks visitors to the Olympic Park and TV viewers will see areas of flat mud transformed into waist-high wild-flower meadows buzzing with bees and butterflies.”

At the same time, Seb Coe, chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee, said: “The wildflower meadows timed to flower in July is just one example of the painstakingly detailed and innovative work of the team of experts.”

Also, Dennis Hone, chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority, said: “In the space of just a few years a predominantly neglected industrial area has been transformed as we cleaned and reshaped the land before planting thousands of trees and plants. The wildflower meadows are a timely reminder at just how close to the games we are getting while their colourful depth and design are a tribute to the UK’s horticultural expertise.”

According to HortWeek, the national horticultural trades magazine in the U.K.

  • “More than 10 hectares (45 acres) of annual and perennial meadows
  • “Plants include tickseed, cornflower, corn marigold, star of the veldt from South Africa, Californian poppy and plains coreopsis, which moves from yellow and blue in July to gold in August.
  • “The meadows, which are sown on an annual basis, have been trialled during the last two years to perfect the team’s extensively researched technique of irrigation, late sowing and cutting back
  • “A combination of shorter and taller perennial meadows, which require only a single seeding, were sown two years ago across the Olympic Park”

The other item related to horticulture and gardening that attracted me during the Olympic Games was the small bouquets (nosegays) of flowers presented to all medal winners at the Games. Though I heard little about them, I did enjoy one Web Blogger’s description and mention of them. Here is what I found on the Blog:

“But at first sight I have to admit to feeling slightly underwhelmed by the London 2012 victory bouquets. They are both small and compact with none of the extravagant flourishes or cellophane wrappings we are so used to seeing. Their apparent modesty belies the care and attention that has gone into their creation. Designed by Susan Lapworth at Jane Packer (one of our best known florists) the bouquets feature flowers and leaves grown in the UK and are based on a traditional nosegay. Each bunch is divided into four sections, separated by rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), apple mint (Mentha suaveolens), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Royal Purple’) and good old wheat. In between are four varieties of rose, all grown in Sussex – cream and green Rosa ‘Wimbledon’, orange ‘Marie-Claire!’, yellow ‘Ilios’ and pink ‘Aqua!’, a most unlikely name for a pink rose.

“The bouquets are being assembled at three sites close to the main sporting venues – in Kent, Dorset and Essex – and will be seen again at the Paralympics. All in all 4,400 will be made and presented. Sadly Jane Packer passed away unexpectedly at the end of 2011, so never got to see the cheerful posies in the hands of our jubilant Olympians. Whilst they might not be as valuable as gold or silver they should keep well and remind their recipients of their amazing achievements. Better than an extravagant tropical affair any day.”

Well said, I would say.

* * *

In closing off this week, I must make mention of the passing of Janet Peaker, a friend, good gardener, former neighbour and travelling companion. As recently as Christmas 2007 she was in Hawai’i with us, and then spent a week in Parksville with us before returning to Toronto. Almost exactly a year ago I was at her new home in Rosedale at a small party she had for me, and she was in quite good shape. I’ll have more about my friend Janet in a future column.      

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