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phs Greenleaf Brings the Tropics to Barton Square

Written by: phs Greenleaf

Date: October 2020, Project March 2020

Background: Originally opened in 2008 as the Trafford Centre’s dedicated homeware retail site, Barton Square, lies five miles west of Manchester city centre and is part of the largest shopping complex in the North of England.

In 2018, Barton Square boasted 200,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including Next Home, Home Sense and M&S Home, as well as LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and SEA LIFE. Barton Square was linked to the main Trafford Centre location by a covered walkway, with the whole site experiencing an annual footfall of up to 35 million.

The Challenge: Following seven years of planning, 2018 finally saw construction begin on Barton Square’s £75 million new extension to create an upper level in the mall and increase retail space by over 110,000 sq ft. The additional space was to be filled with exciting new stores from retail leaders, such as Primark, and would make the Trafford Centre site the second largest shopping destination in the UK.

Due to be completed to the same high standard as the adjacent Trafford Centre, with decorative artefacts sourced from around the world, the Barton Square project included fountains, murals, statues and palm trees, creating an opulent Roman theme. The existing courtyard at the centre of the design was to be enclosed by a dome built to the same scale as that of St Paul’s Cathedral, using 1,800 pieces of glass and weighing over 250 tonnes.

Completion of the project was scheduled for spring 2020 and required the supply and installation of no fewer than 36 preserved Washingtonia palm trees, ranging from 7 metres to 12 metres tall, and planted in clusters to create a tropical effect, transforming the under-used area into a grand communal space with a variety of shops and entertainment areas.

The Solution: The £390k planting portion of the Barton Square project took 3 years from planning to installation, when phs Greenleaf was able to help bring the architects’ vision for the rejuvenated Barton Square to life. Having previously supplied and maintained palm trees and planters at the main Trafford Centre site for many years, phs Greenleaf was familiar with the specification of the large-scale planting. From conception, phs Greenleaf’s Operational Manager, Lynne Williams and Design and Sales Manager, Julie Buck worked closely with local architects, Leach Rhodes Walker. While on site, the planting specialists worked in partnership with Vinci Construction UK to successfully deliver and install the impressive greenery. 

All 36 palm trees were carefully placed to help transform the unloved old courtyard to the delightful semi-temperate atrium created by the impressive new glass dome. The process of obtaining the palms was not an easy one, but is something that has been completed by the experienced phs Greenleaf team several times. Over the course of several months, the arboreal specimens were designed in the UK, made in China using real  palm tree husks and replica Giant Washingtonia Palm leaves, and slowly shipped back to Manchester.

With trees of such height being installed in a busy public area, stability had to be a priority. This was achieved by phs Greenleaf’s skilled installation team - Jeff Higham, Rob Willies and Dave Cooper - who worked closely with the construction company to sink each of the palm trees into a large pit. Live exotic plants were used to complement the architectural features of the palms and the decadent gold and marble embellishments on the ground level.

The lavish décor was further enhanced by oval, marble planters on the balcony level. These were filled with replica Boston ferns and trailing foliage which add interest without distracting from the exciting surroundings.

The Benefits: The high quality of the materials and the attention to detail of this project certainly deserved a high-calibre planting supplier. Having previously completed large scale projects, phs Greenleaf was the perfect choice to handle the planting at the new Barton Square. Working closely with the architects, the large projects team was able to ensure suitable plants were used, throughout.

As well as its UK nurseries, phs Greenleaf can also rely on many suppliers throughout the world to obtain an array of interesting and healthy plants. The experience of knowing how to effectively source and safely install such large, good quality specimens will ensure that all of the plants look great for years to come, as is the case in the main Trafford Centre mall.

The replica trees and plants will be easier to look after than live alternatives and, wherever living plants have been used, phs Greenleaf has selected robust and easy-to-maintain varieties. Where required, phs Greenleaf is also able to offer regular maintenance visits with one of its convenient service plans. 

The renovated Barton Square was able to open on June 15th 2020 with all trees and plants in place to provide a stunning shopping environment and encourage purchasing.

Doreen Hutton, Environmental Service Manager said:

“We are delighted with the outcome at Barton Square. The Trafford Centre is well known for its stunning architecture and unique setting, and the planting and palm trees really add the wow factor to this!”

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