Northumberlandia turns green

The Northumberlandia giant earth sculpture is turning green as the swathes of seed sown across the iconic structure spring to life.
DLF Trifolium Johnsons and hydroseeding specialists CDTS teamed up to create and apply a bespoke mix that puts the finishing touches to a project that was first mooted a decade over.
Wholly privately funded by the Banks Group mining, housing and renewable energy concern, and landowners the Blagden Estate, Northumberlandia is a 34m high, 400m long sculpture of a woman set into the landscape on the outskirts of Cramlington. The brainchild of famed artist Charles Jencks, it celebrates the earth’s natural power and the human ability to reshape landscape.
Subcontracted by the Banks Group, CDTS turned to DLF Trifolium Johnsons to supply a seed mix that met an unusual and challenging brief.
The curvaceous lines of the sculpture required a more technical method of seeding and a mix that had to meet a particularly challenging microclimate.
Northumberlandia will form the centerpiece for a 19-hectare public park on the urban fringe between the countryside of mid Northumberland, the urban areas of south-east Northumberland and Newcastle to the south. In total, 1.5 million tonnes of soil and clay from Shotton Surface Mine, located next to the sculpture, have been moved to create the ambitious work of art.
“Hydroseeding was the only method that would deliver the results needed for the sculpture,” James Thomson, from CDTS North-West told The Landscaper “The contours and ridges of the sculpture required a seed mix with low maintenance, quick coverage, nitrogen building and something that would green up quickly.”
Hydroseeding is the process of spraying a mix of seed, mulch, fertilisers and binders on to a substrate that can vary from topsoil to rough rocky faces. The technique is used where conventional seeding isn’t suitable because of the nature of the soil or site conditions being too steep or too wet.
Microclover was a critical ingredient in the seed mix, explained Thomson. “We’ve used traditional clover in past projects but the benefit of microclover over larger varieties is its smaller size, which means it doesn’t dominate the site but does help maintain high nitrogen levels and reduce weed seed banks, so everything stays nice and green, even in dry conditions.”
DLF Trifolium Johnsons Amenity Sales Manager Paul Hadley, who selected the grass and microclover varieties, said: “Our brief was to prepare a mix that was low maintenance, drought resistant, robust and able to cope with a low nutrient environment. Microclover was the key as it helps fix nutrients from the atmosphere. In a sloped environment like this one, the soil is likely to leech nutrients, so using cultivars that help maintain levels was crucial for it to stay green.”
CDTS, which has worked with DLF Trifolium Johnsons for some 20 years, has hydroseeded the structure six times this year to ensure as rapid a take-up and as full establishment as possible. “The aim has been to achieve a low maintenance future for the sculpture, which has been aided by DLF’s thoughtfully selected seed mix,” Thomson added.
Northumberlandia is due to open later this year or early 2013, Banks Group predicts.

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