Sourcing plants for the North American landscape

By: Steve Ruddy & Tony Hall - 12/04/2012

This year will see the West Lawn of the British Museum transformed by an array of stunning trees, flowers and grasses from Canada and the USA. Steve Ruddy and Tony Hall have been busy getting things ready.

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Banner for British Museum North American Landscape 

From Australia to North America

Once again we have taken to our conceptual aeroplane and this year flown across the world from Australia to North America. As usual we have set ourselves a daunting task, representing the flora and landscape of the United States and Canada in one of our favourite places: the West Lawn of the British Museum. This will be no mean feat!

Australia landscape at the British Museum

Last year's Australia Landscape at the British Museum

Getting hold of the plants

Obtaining the plants for this new landscape has been a little less of a challenge than usual as most of those we have chosen are hardy in the UK. Having said that, getting hold of some of them isn’t quite as easy as you may think! For instance where do you find 1000 insect eating monsters (Sarracenia) that live in a wetland?

Photo of Sarracenia purpurea

Pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) at Kew Gardens

And where do you get 6 m tall trees that can breathe underwater (Taxodium)?

Taxodium distichum at Kew Gardens

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) at Kew Gardens

Luckily at Kew we know a few people who grow these fantastic plants here in the UK and we managed to order them early on in our planning stages. Many of our plants have been specially grown for us, such as those that will feature in the 'prairie' section of our Landscape: sweet grass (Hierochloe), coneflower (Echinacea) and the New England aster.

Some of the Canadian plants were tricky to find, such as the paper birch (Betula papyrifera).

Discovering the beauty of ‘fall’ colour

In November last year, Tony and I travelled to Boston, Massachusetts, to meet with the Arnold Arboretum staff and visit the ‘Garden in the Woods’, a native garden run by the New England Wildflower Society.

View of Boston from the top of St Peters hill, Boston

View of Boston from the top of St Peters hill, the highest point in the arboretum

Whilst we were there we took some time to experience the autumn or ‘fall’ colour. The trees in Boston change from greens to vibrant colours throughout the yellow and red spectrum creating a stunning visual feast.

Taking a cue from this landscape we have chosen, to name but a few, maples (Acers), tulip trees (Liriodendron), and ash (Fraxinus) to recreate our own ‘fall’ at the British Museum. We have agreed to leave the landscape in for a little longer than usual as the colours can be best enjoyed from mid-October to early November.

White ash (Fraxinus americana) at Kew Gardens

White ash (Fraxinus americana) at Kew Gardens showing 'fall' colour

Our next blog will be direct from the forecourt, as we greet the plants on their arrival. Fingers crossed for their safe delivery – and some good weather too!

- Steve and Tony -


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3 comments on 'Sourcing plants for the North American landscape'

Arthur says

13/04/2012 5:20:49 PM | Report abuse

Looks to be a wonderful display. Should you require S. purpurea replacement specimens, we have thousands of the non-natives at Swamp Lake (Kachess Lake Road, Kittitas County, Washington) you may have at no cost. I'll help you remove them.

Steve Ruddy says

13/04/2012 10:17:20 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely, Nyssa will feature in the woodland and wetland, its one of our favourite plants with the irridescent autumn colour. We have two species: N. sylvatica and N. aquatica.

James W. says

12/04/2012 6:50:56 PM | Report abuse

Nyssa sylvatica going to make an appearance?

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