Oudolf Garden, Revisited

Oudolf Garden

A year ago I was in Hummelo, The Netherlands visiting Piet and Anja Oudolf’s garden. It was a  calculated visit. Months before I arrived, I knew I would be in the Netherlands in April 2012 to visit the Floriade (the once every decade international horticultural event) and that I had one day, April 22, that I was free to travel from Amsterdam to Hummelo. (see my blog post  April 5 2012) The journey, although not short, was easy, the Dutch rail system being oh so European and efficient. The tricky part was when we arrived at the train station (in Doetinchem de Huet) and expected taxis to be waiting, which they were not. A couple hours later, we managed to hire a taxi which drove us the relatively short distance to Hummelo, where the oh so gracious Anja Oudolf greeted us.

Anja Oudolf in front of the Studio
Anja Oudolf in front of the Studio

Anja, as pictured, dressed, I remember remarking in my mind, in her wonderful blue sweater and bead necklace, asked us a few questions: Where we were from?  (Boston, USA) Had we seen any other of Piet’s gardens (Yes, Wisley, High Line, Battery Park, Lurie Garden/ Millennial Park), had we read any of Piet’s books (Yes, all of them).  Confident then that we knew what we were looking at, Anja set us a themos of coffee and some cookies in the shed and left us to explore the garden.We had two hours alone in Piet Oudolf’s garden.

 

Oudolf Garden Looking towards house

I am a huge admirer of Oudolf’s work. If garden designers had groupies, I would be an Oudolf groupie. Why? Because of serendipity. The first Oudolf garden I was ever in was the Lurie garden, the first spring after it’s completeion ( May 2005). I had never been to Chicago, I had never heard of Piet Oudolf. I arrived in Chicago a half day before my intended reason for the visit. My hotel was across from the (now famous) Lurie Garden/ Millienial Park. I wandered over. Almost immediately I felt a sense of calm. It was a beautiful spring day, warm and bright. The Garden was busy, yet even in the midst of a major city the plantings allowed privacy and peace, so much so I sat by one of the rivulets, took off my shoes and socks and put my feet in the water. I was completely at ease, almost serene. I looked around me at the (then) mostly unfamiliar plants and asked “how was this done”? When I learned who had done it, I began my quest to learn the how. That is how I became a Piet Oudolf groupie, and why seven years after my chance visit to the Lurie Garden I was standing in Piet’s garden.

Oudolf Garden

April in the north of the Netherlands is early for garden visits. As you can see by the photographs, very little was in bloom.

Early Spring Hummelo
Early Spring Hummelo
Early spring, Oudolf garden
Early spring, Oudolf garden

But, as I often say, it is always a pleasure to be in a garden, and having visited a number of Oudolf gardens in bloom, and having studied his books (Dream Plants for the Natural Garden,  Landscapes in Landscapes, Designing with Plants, Plant Designs/ Gardens in Time and Place, and the recently published Planting: A New Perspective), I could imagine the garden in bloom. Even more, I could experience what few chose to experience, the bare bones of a garden. So, what I wanted to get from my visit to the Oudolf garden (in addition to paying hommage) was  a  sense of how the plants were put together – to gain a sense of the structure of the garden and the flow of the plants.

A round yew hedge
A round yew hedge

The garden is a long rectangle,

View of front garden
View of front garden

View of Oudolf Garden

Apple Tree
Apple Tree

IMG_9974

bordered with impressively shaped mixed hedges.

Mixed Hedges
Mixed Hedges
Entrance to the Oudolf Garden Lined with a Mixed Hedge
Entrance to the Oudolf Garden Lined with a Mixed Hedge

Within the hedges large areas are devoted to perennials, as one would expect from the garden of a designer who champions perennials, very little grass, hardscaped paths, a number of outbuildings (whose function I couldn’t be sure).

Charming outbuildings
Charming outbuildings
Shed where coffee was served
Shed where coffee was served

By April 2012 the famously iconic shaped yew hedges had succumbed to rot from flooding  and were gone; where they once stood in the front garden was now devoted to – yes! – perennials. Also, the nursery which Anja and Piet had run for many years was gone, replaced by the studio and the trial garden. As interesting as it was to see what was planted in the established front garden, it was perhaps more interesting  to see what is planted in the trial gardens behind the house, in front of the new studio. Here I could see which plants Oudolf was testing to use in future projects, if they passed his requirements.

Looking toward the trial garden
Looking toward the trial garden
Coreopsis El Dorado
Coreopsis El Dorado
Trial Plants
Trial Plants
Trial Garden
Trial Garden

Of course the two hours passed too quickly. As we were preparing to leave, Anja came out to say good bye and asked if we would like to meet Piet, who was working in his studio. She took us into the studio where Piet was on a phone call with a client in Sweden. He graciously paused his phone call to stand up and greet us, ask us where we were from, thanked us for coming. We were allowed to take some photos. It was a memorable day.

Me and Piet, down in his studio
Me and Piet, down in his studio

5 thoughts on “Oudolf Garden, Revisited

  1. I love what you’re doing, Amy. Love how frequently you are posting. You sound like an expert! Which is what I was wanting for you. People need to see you and feel you and get your dedication and interest. Let it keep flowering.

    deirdre

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  2. Another interesting post with amazing photos that show not just the actuality but the real feeling of the places, it is as though the plants and flowers are themselves speaking to your readers. Keep it up!
    Fred

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  3. Another interesting post. Like you, I find Oudolf’s plantings quite magical. Have you visited his garden at Bury Court in England? It’s a wonderful combination of hedges and flowers impossible to grow in my cold climate outside Montreal. I’ve just ‘followed’ you and look forward to reading your posts.

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    1. I have not yet been to Bury Court. I will be in the UK next week and will add it to the long list of gardens I will be seeing – as well as attending the Centennial Chelsea Flower Show. Thank you for the recommendation. And WELCOME to of gardens. I am very glad you found us.

      Like

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