Time to factor public gardens into city plans

New York has its High Line and Paris its Promenade Plantée, which have been planted to make use of old rail lines

An exclusive roof garden designed for private shoppers in Harrods, London, was designed by Diarmuid Gavin recently – a green oasis in an otherwise very urban setting but only accessible by a select few.

I wonder how our gardens will grow now that water is becoming an expensive commodity. Beautiful floral displays may become something to be enjoyed only by those with more to spend. This is a sad thought but there are some projects in large urban cities that are making beautiful gardens available to everyone. This isn’t just about improving the look of our cities but it will also help to create a much better environment to live in.

One of the most exciting projects to be conceived in recent years is the Garden Bridge in London. It will be a stunning new public garden and pedestrian crossing, spanning the River Thames, linking the South Bank to Temple station and beyond.

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick and inspired by actress and campaigner, Joanna Lumley, the bridge will provide a vital new route between north and south London and feature plants, trees, woodland and meandering walkways to be used and enjoyed by all.


The 3D visualisations created by the Heatherwick studio capture the stunning beauty and promise of the delightful experience that will be enjoyed when crossing the bridge.

Back in Dublin, I look forward to Bloom every year and its growing popularity is proof that our need to connect with nature is increasing. I had the pleasure of speaking to last year's overall winner Kevin Dennis, about his "Renault ZOE: City Life Garden" with the theme "Urban Greening", which was all about encouraging more plants into cities.

Features like mirrors were used to reflect the sky, planted roofs and a vertical planted wall are all ideas that work in even the smallest urban backyard.

When asked about why planting is so important for our cities, Dennis said: “Cities will grow and populations will expand and some cities will double in size over the next 50 to 100 years. It is important that the greening of cities is incorporated in the plans of development.

“By incorporating green roofs and green walls we can reduce run-off water into our drainage systems and reduce flooding. Biodiversity will increase and the air will be filtered of carbon dioxide by introducing these plants.”

The High Line project in New York City is a wonderful example of how planting and gardens can transform an urban experience. The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It is owned by the City of New York, and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. A similar project in Paris, the three-mile (4.8km) Promenade Plantée, completed in 1993, was the inspiration for this project.

Founded in 1999 by community residents, Friends of the High Line fought for the High Line’s preservation and transformation at a time when it was under the threat of demolition. In addition to overseeing maintenance, operations, and public programming for the park, Friends of the High Line works to raise the essential private funds to support virtually all of the park’s annual operating budget.

Gardens are something that we have perhaps taken for granted. But now they will be more expensive to maintain we must give some thought to ensure they remain a big part of our homes and most importantly our cities.