Merton Borders - seeds of change

The Botanic Garden is working in collaboration with Professor James Hitchmough from the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield to develop this area.

At 955mthese borders form the largest single cultivated area in the Botanic Garden. They are being developed as an example of sustainable horticultural development, with the aim of having minimal impact on the environment in the long term. Read the original concept for the borders here.

The planting is based on the ecological study of natural plant communities to produce a highly ornamental yet extremely sustainable display. 85% of the plants are being established through the direct sowing of seed. This has two benefits:

  • It is more sustainable than planting thousands of plants grown in peat based composts and plastic containers.
  • Sowing from seed makes it possible to establish plants at much higher densities per square metre. This increases the diversity of the plantings and ensures a long succession of flowering through the season.


The plants have been selected for their ability to withstand drought conditions and originate from seasonally dry grassland communities in three regions of the world:

  • The Central to Southern Great Plains (USA) through to the Colorado Plateau and into California
  • East South Africa at latitudes above 1000m
  • Southern Europe to Turkey and across Asia to Siberia


North American Zone

Mediterranean zone


South Africa zone


Selecting plant species from these drier plant communities will build in a greater tolerance of warmer, drier summers. For a full list of the plants grown in these borders click here.

Once established the planting will be colourful from spring to autumn and will:

  • be a naturalistic, dynamic style of planting
  • be drought tolerant and require no artificial irrigation
  • require no staking
  • require no application of fertiliser
  • not require intensive management practices such as division, soil improvement and replanting on a regular basis, which is the case with conventional plantings


The borders are now in their second year and looking spectacular. Many of the plants are now established and flowering well. The show will continue until Autumn, so do drop by and take a look at the progress! See a short film on the development of these borders here.