Oxford College of Garden Design Graduate Wins Olympic Garden Project

Hailed as the first-ever “Botanical Olympics,” the UK’s Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has approved plans for 250 acres of parkland at the Olympic site in East London and chosen 28-year-old landscape designer Sarah Price to design a show-stopping celebration of British Gardening at the main entrance.


Price, who studied fine art at Nottingham Trent University before qualifying in Residential Landscape Architecture at the Oxford College of Garden Design, is a rising star of the horticultural world and is planning to use thousands of different plant species from around the world.

She describes her concept as: “A giant painting in three dimensions” has a £5m budget to realise her vision and adds: “The aim is to bring landscape and garden design together.”

Her showcase gardens will take visitors through four distinct periods in garden history, all inspired by Britain’s great tradition of travelling Planthunters; including Joseph Banks, the botanist who accompanied Captain James Cook on his first voyage to the Pacific and, later, a former director of Kew Gardens.

The four zones of the “2012 Garden”, as it will be known, will be separated by bridges across the River Lee (a tributary of the Thames which is currently being widened) and visitors will walk from Western Europe and the Mediterranean in the 14th to 17th centuries, via America in the 17th and 18th centuries, through plants from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand in the 18th and 19th centuries, ending up in Asia and the Far East in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is an ambitious project by anyone’s benchmark and Price, who is the youngest designer responsible for a major project at the Olympics, will be designing on a much larger scale than any of her previous commissions. Her 21st century botanical garden will run along the widened river and include mature trees shipped in from specialist nurseries around the world, as well as native British species.

Students at the Oxford College of Garden Design are trained to really understand the historical influences of previous generations on landscape designers by undertaking two major projects. In the first, where they compile a pictorial timeline of the links between art, architecture, socio-economics and garden design for the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, they begin to see for themselves how each affects the other. The course also includes a weighty written essay based on their 20th Century Timeline where, again, they learn not only who were the major designers in any given decade but who went before and who came after them.