OOTS: Garden Organic's Car Park

This time last year I visited Garden Organic's HQ at Ryton near Coventry to have a look around their varied demonstration gardens. Before I'd even made it that far, I was struck by the planting in the car park: here you can see tall, wavy grasses topped off by crab apples trees (do click for a larger image if required). This is very different to the usual car parks seen around Chippenham, but it seemed to me it would be great if this kind of planting was adopted more widely.

There was an interpretation board nearby which gave lots more information about what had been planted:

The planting in our car park has been designed to provide year-round interest for our visitors whilst providing food and cover for wildlife. Many of the shrubs and trees provide fruits, berries or hips, all of which are a magnet for birds. The tall stems of the ornamental grasses are left on over winter to provide cover for hibernating insects.

Spring interest is provided by flowering shrubs such as Berberis wilsoniae, Berberis verruculosa and Chaenomeles japonica. In summer, the Rosa spinosissima and Stephanandra incisa 'Crispa' come into flower, to be followed by autumn fruits on the collection of crab apples such as Malus 'John Downie', Malus x zumi 'Golden Hornet' and Malus huphensis. On a frosty winter's morning, the tall stems of the grasses Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' and Stipa gigantea shine in the low sun, casting long shadows on the ground.

The hedges surrounding the car park have been planted using native British species such as hazel, field maple and hawthorn. Native trees and shrubs have been found to support many more invertebrate animals than introduced species of tree. This in turn attracts many other animals including robins, shrews and hedgehogs. As a result the entire ecosystem is enriched.

Hardly any of these plants are used in the public planting around Chippenham, so they would be great at increasing the diversity around the town, which I understand is one of the local council's goals with regards to our future quality of life. As well as enhancing car parks, these plants are also ideal candidates for the changed approach to roundabout planting I advocated in the last edition of Out on the Streets.

There's still plenty of time for you to join in with OOTS this month as I'll be extending it into September to give everyone a chance to take part. Simply write your post and add your link to Mr Linky here: this link will also tell you more about OOTS should you need it.


  1. I like the wildlife aspect of this, but would prefer my car to be in clear view and not partially hidden away.

  2. This works very well partly because of the toothy castellations required by car park planting. (Bit along the back then a couple of indentations to define the bays etc).
    Roundabouts are much more difficult because they are seen from all round and usually just the outside bit - a little like driving round a ring doughnut. The only way to make them work well is to make the centre much, much higher so there is a sizeable mound.
    There was really good one in Milton Keynes that was tiered like a wedding cake but they demolished it to make an easier access road to the station.

  3. while i like the grasses, being american-urban, i feel safer being able to see around & under my car from all angles. roundabouts & intersection planting is touchy due to vision requirements. certainly leads to a lot of boring plantings hereabouts.

  4. I do like the planting, both the grasses and the berry-rich trees and shrubs. One thing my father always says to me is that he wishes that landscapers would plant more berry-rich shrubs in public car parks.

    I would feel happy with this sort of planting in an environment where there would only be traffic in the day time (eg gardens, visitor attractions) but would be more nervous of it in a more general car-parking environment, especially if accessing it after dark.

  5. Hermes - good point and as you can see from the photo, the design allows the cars to be in clear view

    James - thanks. I'm envisaging precisely that in this instance.

    Petoskystone - quite right re sightlines etc. I'm sure shorter grasses could be used. Around here they don't seem to be taken into account - the roundabout closest to my house is positively dangerous and the use of grasses instead of an impenetrable hedge effect would actually be a safety improvement!

    HM - good point re different safety considerations needed after dark and I'm sure that consideration could be taken into account.

  6. Been away nearly all summer; just back this evening and enjoying looking at your recent posts. Agree car parks in Chippenham could be much, much better.

    As could my garden after summer of neglect, but then I'm moving house soon - all being well - oh, the stress.

    Nice to be back.

  7. Rather interesting place you've got here. Thanks the author for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

    Bella Hakkinen


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