The National Trust has launched two temporary blossom gardens in Birmingham city centre today (March 24) in celebration of the city’s botanical history and to inspire everyone to enjoy the fleeting beauty of blossom. The conservation charity is also announcing plans for a legacy tree planting programme which will see more than 500 blossoming trees including ornamental blossom and fruit trees planted around the city thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Part of Birmingham 2022 Festival, a six-month celebration of creativity which surrounds the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the blossom installations will be in place for six weeks and can be found at St Phillip’s Cathedral Square and Edgbaston Street, next to the indoor markets. Each of the gardens feature 22 large planters with a mixture of blossoming trees including ornamental cherry, apple, pear and plum. Altogether there will be more than 50 trees along with colourful benches to encourage people to sit and experience this key moment in spring, emulating the Japanese tradition of Hanami (blossom watching).
Birmingham, described historically as a ‘town ringed by blossom’, was once surrounded by gardens and orchards. New data released by the National Trust reveals in 1900 there were 186 hectares (ha) of orchards in the city – the equivalent of just over 11 Bullring shopping centres – compared to just 29ha today, with a further 0.5ha of modern orchards. However, this drop of 85 per cent actually shows that Birmingham has fared better than most cities in the country and retained some of its orchard sites.
Lucy Reid, Assistant Director for the National Trust, who leads the conservation charity’s work in Birmingham, said: “This year is very special for our city and we are delighted to have the opportunity to be part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival by creating a celebration of blossom right in the heart of the city. We’ll also be creating a lasting legacy by recreating a symbolic ‘ring of blossom’ inspired by Birmingham’s botanical history and planted in local neighbourhoods around the city.
“Many of the orchards which were once in and around Birmingham in the 18th and 19th Centuries have been lost with urban expansion, but we can see them on historical maps – some have inspired street names such as Cherry Street near Birmingham Cathedral, which used to have a cherry orchard next to it. In fact, the locations of all of our pop-up gardens were close to traditional orchards at one time.
“Spring is always such a welcome time – and even more so in these last two years. Blossom is not only good for our souls, it’s vital for pollinators too. It’s all too easy to miss this fleeting moment in nature’s calendar, so we want to encourage everyone to take a moment to notice blossom, to feel the benefits that connecting with nature gives us, and then to join us in sharing this with others via #Blossomwatch on social media.”
Trees from the National Trust’s city centre blossom gardens will be moved at the beginning of May and will reappear at the Commonwealth Games’ Smithfield live site at the end of July when they will create a ‘green space’ in the fan zone. In the autumn, the conservation charity will start a blossom legacy planting programme when the trees from the installations, along with more than 500 ornamental blossom and fruit trees, will be planted in and with local communities to recreate a symbolic ‘ring of blossom’ around the city, following Birmingham’s 27-mile, iconic number 11 bus route.
The Trust is calling on residents and community groups across Birmingham to join the legacy planting programme and ‘adopt’ a tree. Anyone who’d like to find out more and get involved can email Birmingham-Blossom@nationaltrust.org.uk.