A landmark display of “superbloom” flowers in the moat of the Tower of London is undergoing an unexpected rescue mission after cold and dry weather left it in danger of failing to blossom in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
The planned sea of flowers, planted in the spring, has been left looking like seedlings, with a project to salvage it with reseeding and laying wildflower turf currently underway.
The display, complete with a slide to fun-loving families to enter, is due to be unveiled on Monday, with a rumoured royal visit from the Duchess of Cambridge pencilled in next week.
But the grand unveiling has now been postponed by a month, to allow seedlings the chance to bloom.
With four days to the official Jubilee bank holiday begins, experts still hope the forecasted sun and light showers will help the moat bloom thanks to a “Plan B” of reseeding and fertilising the patchy ground.
The worst bits have been covered with wildflower turf, with horticulturalists believing the unexpected twist will leave the “superbloom” project more successful in the long run with a spread of longer-lasting flowers until September.
A spokeswoman for Historic Royal Palaces, custodians of the Tower of London, said the “particularly cold and dry April has set back gardeners across the country, and we at the Tower are no exception”.
Nigel Dunnett, who has masterminded the planting scheme in his role as Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield, said last-minute luck had been on their side, with a recent showing of “lots of flowers” to salvage the Jubilee opening.
“We always knew it would be in the hands of nature,” he said. “We did a huge amount of risk assessment, trying to think about the worst that could happen
“This spring, until the last week, we’ve had virtually no rain here in central London combined with quite cold weather for the time of year. It’s a combination that's been in our worst nightmare.”
But, he said, they had always planned for a “huge peak” in July and August, which is still on track.
“Seeing what we've got now is just a taster, but there are lots of beautiful flowers,” he said
“We've done a lot of work in the last few weeks to fill gaps that have been slower because of the weather.
“We've had a real programme of lifting up the soil, reseeding, adding fertiliser to push things along.
“Plan C has been to add ready-made wildflower turf which we've done in really problematic places. It wasn’t in our plans but there are positive things coming out it.”
The dream weather for the coming week, Prof Dunnett said, would be “lots of sun, not too cold, periodic showers at night every couple of days”.
The Met weather forecast is currently showing a mild week with temperatures between 15 and 19 degrees, with some showers on Tuesday.
Kensington Palace has not yet confirmed any plans for a royal visit to the site, which has seen the Tower’s 13th century moat transformed in a bid to bring bees and birds flocking back to urban London.
The planting scheme, which included 20 million carefully-selected seeds being sown, is designed to attract pollinators and wildlife, and is the beginning of a permanent transformation of the moat into a natural landscape.
The “superbloom” project, already nicknamed “Flowers at the Tower”, is dedicated to the 70-year reign of the Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year.