Searching for Piet Udolph in the Olympic Park

On the far eastern end of London is the sprawling park area where the 2012 Olympics were held. Normally this would not be a draw for me, but I learned that some famous garden designers — including the Dutch designer Piet Udolph — have made some gardens there, and so this weekend I finally made the schlep.

The park was, well, not what I had expected. There were the obligatory Olympic Rings (yay!) . . .

. . . and lots of paths and trees and lawns and meadows. But, weirdly, for all that there was no sense of parkland or expansiveness. In fact, on the whole I rather hated it.

But there were still some lovely bits. At the north end, by the velodrome, a really delightful playground mobbed with children and, running parallel, some pretty planted paths.

But this apparently wasn’t the Udolph section, so I headed to the southern end. Here I found the gardens in the so-called pleasure grounds. Full of massed plantings of grasses flowering herbaceous plants, the gardens created substantial barriers forming rooms to explore or find respite in from the crowds.

The community life in this area of the park was vibrant and fun. I loved seeing such lovely gardens being lived in and loved by so many people. It again reinforces just how core gardening is to British culture. It also made me want to have a large enough garden one day to be able to play with the massing if plants the way that do here.

As I stood on the lawn taking it in, the airport called and said my missing luggage had been found and would be dispatched to my address. So I headed home to collect the bag and plan my next trip… to Ireland!

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