Time for a bumper blog post in celebration of the publication of our long-awaited book, ‘Planting: A new perspective’ by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, which demonstrates how Piet Oudolf achieves his signature naturalistic planting style, from planting plans to final positioning and aftercare. There are several wonderful UK gardens fully designed by or with design contributions from Piet, many of which are open to the public. Here’s a list of the gardens, alongside some of the planting plans, ideas and techniques behind his designs.
Scampston Hall, Yorkshire
A relatively low-growing combination of plants makes the most of a poor soil, in a place which can get cold winters and is on the drier side of England. It is the kind of planting, like Beth Chatto’s in Essex, which fits plants to habitat. Colorful and rich in textures, it makes the best of its lean look. A dramatic use of waves of a Molinia grass variety is another play with a simple modernist-formal feature.
Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire
The ‘Floral Labyrinth’ at Trentham, Staffordshire (2004–7)… It has an interesting place in the development of the Oudolf planting style, as it is based overwhelmingly on the equal-sized groups which he used in previous large projects, such as Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk (1996) (…)but includes some hints of the levels of added complexity which he started to develop in projects which came later. The overwhelming preponderance of grouped perennials is broken up a little by a few groups being mixtures, such as Lythrum virgatum with Liatris spicata (both deep pink narrow spikes) – shown on this plan section.
The rivers of grass at Trentham in early June with cultivars of Iris sibirica in flower among Molinia caerulea ‘Heidebraut’ and M. c. subsp. caerulea ‘Edith Dudszus’. Some yellow Trollius europaeus and pale pink Persicaria bistorta are also visible – all are tolerant of the occasional flooding which affects this area.
RHS Garden, Wisley
The double border at the RHS Garden, Wisley (2001), where bands of intermingled perennials create interesting combinations at all scales of observation, from near to far. In mid- to late summer Perovskia atriplicifolia dominates (above), counterposed with pink Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’ and the seedheads of Phlomis tuberosa ‘Amazone’, while in another band (below) gray-white Eryngium yuccifolium contrasts with scarlet Helenium ‘Rubinzwerg’ and Echinacea purpurea; some seedheads of Allium hollandicum survive from an earlier phase of flower.
Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, Norfolk
At Pensthorpe Gardens in Norfolk (below) two species are beginning to blend to form a meadow effect, several years after being planted in separate blocks: Scabiosa japonica var. alpina and deep pink Dianthus carthusianorum both have fine stems which in nature wend their way through grasses; they can also be effective at seeding themselves.
Potters Fields, London
At Potters Fields Park, London (2007), drifts of grass and perennial combinations create an orderly but dynamic effect. In the foreground is a mix of Echinacea purpurea and white-flowered, sprawling Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta. The grass in the background is Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’.
A detail from the plan for Potters Fields Park (2007), where jagged drifts are an effective way of creating simple mixed planting combinations.
A drift of Sesleria autumnalis in the foreground with red Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ and Deschampsia behind. Other perennials are also included in each drift, but are not visible here. The use of drifts in this park creates a strong sense of movement and maximizes the trade-off between relatively simple, easy-to-maintain planting and visual complexity.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of images and information, all of which has been taken from ‘Planting: A new perspective‘, giving you a taster of what to expect from the book. If this post has whetted your appetite for more of Piet’s planting plans and Noel Kingsbury’s extensive knowledge of naturalistic planting then don’t miss out on getting your own copy- the book is available to buy now from our website:
All photos in this blog were taken by Piet Oudolf, unless otherwise stated in the caption below them.