The Landscape Guide

Thames Landscape Strategy: Tree Planting

See index page for Chelsea to Tower Thames Landscape Strategy

There are a few places along the river in Central London with significant plantings of great historic trees. They include the Victoria Embankment and Victoria Gardens, the Temple, Customs House key and the Tower of London all on the North Bank. On the South Bank there are a few places with very successful twentieth century tree planting, including the Queen's Walk at Waterloo on the South Bank. But the Thames is not a well-treed river and has never had a well-considered tree-planting strategy. Most twenty-first century development projects have included a few token trees but their cumulative effect is disappointingly haphazard and regrettably fragmentary.
Waterside trees are important because they are beautiful and provide shade and shelter. They also ameliorate air pollution from traffic (by fixing particulates), play a part in sustainable drainage, and provide habitats for birds and bees. Visually, trees can be a foil for beautiful buildings and a necessary screen for ugly buildings. One significant current proposal using trees is the Garden Bridge between Temple and the South Bank.
The major London tree is the London plane (Platanus hispanica), but other large trees can be planted as well, including lime and willow. The priority should be for planting trees which will grow to a significant height.  The visual design objective should be to compose trees with the other elements of the outdoor landscape. Currently a first proposal is the increase the riverside trees plantings on southern bank to be equal to those on the northern bank.