UK roundabouts bloom after meadow makeover

Woking's meadow roundabout
Woking's meadow roundabout

Roundabouts are part of our everyday lives in the UK, barely noticed as we whizz by, but now seven of them have been given facelifts and have transformed into sustainable wildflower meadows.

The urban meadows are the culmination of a two year project to celebrate Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s 20 years in the UK. Enterprise teamed up with Professor Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield and the company Pictorial Meadows to make it happen.

This project was very exciting because it offered a chance to demonstrate the impact that these perennial designs can have on communities for the long-term

The seven sites, in the urban areas of Glasgow, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham, Swindon, Liverpool and Woking, were handpicked by local authorities and chosen for their proximity to major arterial roads in the hope of maximising their impact on local communities.

The teams planted two acres of meadow in the autumn and winter of 2015, using a range of bulbs, shrubs and flowers, all of which had been carefully selected for the growing conditions in each location. The University and Pictorial Meadows, the UK’s leading urban meadows specialist, worked together to ‘pre-grow’ meadow mats to allow for intensive irrigation, which was essential to ensure the young plants had a solid base.

The flowers on each roundabout have been specially picked to boost local wildlife

As well as providing delightfully colourful displays for several months, the planting on the roundabouts have been developed to flower year-on-year with minimal maintenance. Professor Nigel Dunnett helped develop the seeds which have been shown to reduce maintenance costs for local authorities as well as lower the disruption to traffic caused by gardening equipment used on normal roundabouts.

Each one has also been designed to boost biodiversity and wildlife, the plants are particularly suited to bee and butterfly communities which thrive on the flowers when they are in bloom.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s Managing Director,  Khaled Shahbo, said: “We have more than 420 branches in towns, cities and airports across the UK. Communities are really important to us, and we are so grateful for the way they have welcomed and supported us over the past 20 years.

Professor Nigel Dunnett helped design meadow flower displays at the Olympic Park in London Credit: The Olympic Development Authority

Professor Nigel Dunnett founded Pictorial Meadows to bring new plant technology to sites around the UK at an affordable cost.

He said: “This project was very exciting because it offered a chance to demonstrate the impact that these perennial designs can have on communities for the long-term. Over the years we have worked with many local authorities on wildflower projects that have created visually stunning displays quickly, but only for a year or two.

The Park Square roundabout in Sheffield

“The planting on these roundabouts will have longevity. They will flower year after year with quite minimal attention, because Enterprise and the local authorities involved were willing to engage in this project for the long-term.”

Dan Cornwell, Operations Director at Pictorial Meadows, oversaw the entire project from start to finish said: “This project is very important because it allows us to showcase how this new approach to the development of perennial meadows can make a real difference. It can transform how councils plan the greening of local communities while reducing maintenance costs.”