The Gardens are a unique fusion of formal and informal plantings. Stretching almost a kilometre, the contemporary, perennial plantings combine and are interwoven with structural strips with wide-swathes of intermingled plants set out in a more naturalistic style. Bold blocks of repeating colours and textures provide a sense of continuity. The planting is highly structured, designed for dramatic, year-round effect. The plants themselves were carefully selected not only for their beauty but also for their durability and value in attracting bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other species for increasing biodiversity.

Creating the 2012 Gardens was quite an undertaking. Rare seeds, cuttings and bulbs were tracked down from across the UK and abroad. These include hundreds of South African plants grown from a small collection in Ireland and seeds collected in South Africa; thousands of rare white chrysanthemums; as well as Asian lilies grown from clumps provided by specialists in the UK. Other rare plants include the compass plant, used by Native Americans to navigate the North American prairies, and Summer Beauty, an unusual flowering onion from Europe.


First-hand perspectives on designing and planting these one-of-a-kind gardens:


The 2012 Gardens pay tribute to Britain's long history of exploration, trade and plant collecting and their impact on the great horticultural diversity and variety of British gardens. They are a living timeline celebrating the influences of British trade and commerce on the nation's rich gardening heritage adding a contemporary appreciation of the form and structure of diverse plant habitats from across the globe.

Divided into four climatic zones, each draws upon the ecological character of habitats found in the wild:


This Garden is based on a traditional hay meadow, but includes more robust species that flower for longer. From the 14th century onwards, the influx of plants from Europe that were already a key source for most garden plants from the classical civilisation increased with the growth of trade and exploration.

North America

Flowers in this Garden are found in North American prairies. Plant collecting from North America was at its height in the 1800s, and it is still the a key source for summer flower colour in British gardens today.

Southern Hemisphere

This Garden was inspired by the exotic species found in South Africa's Drakensberg range. Flora from South Africa are quite dramatic in colour and form, and the Drakensberg range is a prime example of this. With the warming of the climate, many South African plants are increasingly suitable for British gardens. Plants from South Africa were all the rage in the 19th century.


This Garden focuses on structure and foliage from the edges of Asian woodlands. Most of Asia was closed to trade and exploration until the 19th century, and when their ports opened for commerce, botanists found a long-established tradition of horticulture in many Asian cultures that outpaced much of what was being practiced in Europe.

You can find the 2012 Gardens between the Aquatics Centre and the Olympic Stadium, along the banks of the Waterworks River.

The gardens are accessible via:
the main concourse from the Aquatics Centre and the bridge from the Water Polo Arena to the north; and the Greenway Walk to the south.

Find out more transport information to the Park here:


The 2012 Gardens are wheelchair accessible. Find out more about the Park's accessibility here .

Please contact us with questions or comments.


Explore the breadth and diversity of the 2012 Gardens. They are a vibrant testimony to the history of British exploration and trade and their lasting impact on the nation's gardening heritage. The Gardens are a living timeline of plant collecting, inspired by wild plant communities found across the globe.

Discover how biodiversity can flourish in cities, benefitting both the local community and nature.

Download the free app from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store!

  • Explore plant communities from four climate zones: Europe, North America, Southern Hemisphere, Asia.
  • Dig deeper for additional information, including access to articles and audio clips.
  • Email a digital postcard to friends.
  • Share the Garden with others using email, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • View a photo gallery of the Gardens as they took shape.

Download free from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store!


The 2012 Gardens application was commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority. Additional content has been supplied by the Royal Horticultural Society.