Gardening trends come and go and I have tried a few in my humble garden. I remember the terracotta style with yellow-sun-split gravel for an “Italian” terrace. A few years ago, after the children left the home, I decided on a more modern look. So in came Vietnamese bluestone, a green structure and a lot of Hortensia’s Annabelle. And now it is time for a new phase; I was thinking “Piet Oudolf”!
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How to update your garden in Piet Oudolf style?
A trend, even called a movement, is the natural garden with an emphasis on perennials. Three years ago I visited the New York High line for the first time. This beautiful park on the westside of Manhattan, built on a historic, elevated rail line had been in the (dutch) garden magazines with a lot of attention to Piet Oudolf. Proud of “our” landscape designer, known for his use of plants in a natural garden. So I was curious. I loved the combinations of plants. It was January but attractive to see.
The first step: books
I loved it and started to buy one of his books: Planting, a new perspective by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury. As they describe in the introduction, this is planting design for the twenty-first century, you learn about grouping and combining plants, how to intermingle, how the performance is of the plants in the long term “how perennial are perennials”, plant names, the metrics and you will be inspired by all photographs and planting plans.
Noel Kingsbury and Piet Oudolf have written four books in collaboration with each other. My “bible”:
Other inspiring books:
- Dreamplants for the natural garden, Piet Oudolf & Henk Gerritsen
- Planting the natural garden, Piet Oudolf & Henk Gerritsen
- Landscapes in Landscapes, Piet Oudolf
- The Oudolf Gardens at Durslade Farm, Rory Dusoir
Next step: Sites, Pinterest, Instagram
On a lot of websites and social media you can find information and inspiration:
Start with Piet’s site and his co-writers.
On Pinterest there are Fans with beautiful boards
and I found this Magazine with 100 Must-Have-Plants
On the instagram account the name of the plant or plants are mentioned so that can help you find what you like. Of course that is not enough for it is important to know if it can grow on the soil in your garden. But it is a start and makes it easier to look up the specifications of the plants.
“Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf”, is a documentary film by Thomas Piper, the instagram account shows pictures and video’s. I liked especially this one about how to transform the design into something useful for execution.
Visiting Piet Oudolf gardens
We have to take another step because we want to implement some of his ideas in our own garden. There are a lot of gardens you can visit (all over the world) on his site you can find them all, I will mention a few of the public gardens:
- New York, https://www.thehighline.org/ as mentioned, here it started for me. The picture on top of this page is taken there.
- New York, Gardens of the Battery
- Chicago, Lurie Garden
- Sweden, Skarholmen Perennpark
- Oudolf Garden Detroit, work in progress
- Netherlands, sculpturen garden – Laren Singer Museum
- UK, Pensthorpe, the Millennium Garden
- Germany, Bad Driburg
- Netherlands, Vleuten, Vlinderhof in Maxima park
Start planning your own perennial garden
This is not a description of a garden design but just some tips for a planting design. Piet Oudolf makes it easy for us. Accompanying the book ‘Planting: A New Perspective” a few of his designs are available to download. These documents give a rare insight in the designs of Piet Oudolf.
So if you visit one of the mentioned gardens try to link the plants to one of his designs. Note which plants appeal to you and try to built a scheme around those plants.
First think about the soil in your garden. Don’t use prairie plants if the earth is swampy. Make an inventory of the kind of light in a flowerbed and sketch your color scheme. If you are not sure, just try! If one of the species fails you can always try to replant them in a different place with more or less shadow and/or water.
In “Planting” is described how a semi natural grassland appeals to us:
- Intermingle, in a grassland species intermingle (for you try not to work in blocks)
- Diversity, the more you look the more you see (don’t feel limited if you like a lot of plants)
- Complexity, a lot op individuals plants on a square meter
- Change, a constant shift in the distribution of plants
- Coherence, despite all the different plants an overall sense of unity
- Distinction, some plants rise above the mass.
Keep this in mind, now write down
- the plants you want to use for the spring garden
- the plants you want to use for the autumn/winter garden
- finish with the plants for summer.
- grasses with their beautiful seed-heads,
- to use locally native plants,
- to differ in structure of the plants,
- allow self seeding,
- try to make a connection with the surroundings of your garden.
Curious how your garden will look next year! Let me know.