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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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The Flower Garden Style of Piet Oudolf

Image copyrighted by Scott Weber. Used with permission

Scott Weber, of Portland, Oregon, has been designing and planting flowerbeds around his property for several years. Above and below are two of the many stunning photos he shares with readers on his blog Rhone Street Gardens. The images of his mini meadow-like plantings always take my breath away no matter how frequently he posts. Scott once mentioned that Piet Oudolf inspires the spirit and design of his garden.

Image copyrighted by Scott Weber. Used with permission.

For over one hundred years, the English flower garden remained the championed design for colorful gardens in the Western world and I confess that it remains my personal favorite to this day.

Nevertheless, by the time the twentieth century began to overlap with the twenty- first, along came Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf to nudge that traditional style out of its spotlight. Today, when I combine some of his design elements into my English-style projects, the results are quite moving.

Many books and articles have been written about this extraordinarily talented garden designer and I expect that ongoing and well deserved worldwide tributes will continue for some time to come.

Garden design by Piet Oudolf. Click on image to visit site.

Piet Oudolf has succeeded in replaced the traditional perennial garden with landscapes inspired by the chaos of wildflowers, the assorted textures of foliage and the ethereal movement of grassy meadows. Yet, there is nothing chaotic or wild about his gardens, even if he does include native perennials in his layouts. In fact, his unique gardens are the results of meticulous, intricately designed planting schemes which, when repeated over vast swaths of land, create mesmerizing rivers of lush plant compositions.

His strategically arranged garden blueprints are realized primarily with robust, broad and small leaved perennials, bulbs, and ornamental grasses - all placed into recurring matrices to create a blissful flow of colors, textures, flower shapes and plant forms. Tall species, as well, are incorporated into some of his flowerbeds so that visitors can feel enveloped as they walk under and through his compositions.

These design elements also include the structural skeletons and seed heads of plants that provide visual interest when gardens are usually dormant and bare in winter. In Mr. Oudolf's gardens, eye-catching details attract and engage visitors all year round.

The High Line, New York City, gardens by Piet Oudolf.

Some of Piet Oudolf’s works are located in private gardens and privately owned parks open to the public. However, his best-known and powerful creations are situated in the public spaces of large cities. These urban projects create stirs of excitement when they first open and leave an enormous positive impression on the public. The result is that he has become an iconic figure in the garden design community.

Salvia beds designed by Piet Oudolf at Lurie Gardens, Chicago

One finds these urban oases in some of the largest and most densely populated areas. Here, juxtaposed among concrete, steel and asphalt, are wild meadow-inspired flower gardens whose soft natural and seemingly random appearances contrast dramatically with the disciplined, sleek and hard surfaces of the city structures that surround. They serve as a therapeutic refuge from the stress of daily life.

Lurie Gardens, Chicago.

As a highly respected designer and mentor, he continues to influence the work of prominent landscape designers on both sides of the Atlantic and his philosophy inspires home gardeners, some of whom live in climatically challenged areas where native plants and grasses work better than other perennials, to create dramatic yet beautiful traffic-stopping gardens.

Oudolf’s designs are synergistic; the compositions are more sublime than the appearance of any one of his chosen plants when grown alone. In his gardens, we experience the exquisite beauty of nature that can transport us from demanding urban existence to a destination overflowing with spirituality and hope.

Admire twenty six completed garden projects by Piet Oudolf at his website

Watch a video of his work for New York Botanical Gardens

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Reader Comments (6)

Great article, and Scott's garden is indeed inspiring, as are Lurie Garden and the High Line. I feel privileged to have visited all three. Gotta ask though: how is Portland, Oregon -- the gardening capital of the world, following England, of course -- "climatically challenged?" It seems like a gardener's paradise to this Texas gardener. :-)

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPam/Digging in Austin

Pam,the perennial flower garden as I understand it was developed in England where the climate is ideal for the widest range of floriferous perennials to thrive. There are few locations in North America that are that perfect. I understand that coming from Texas, Oregon feels like a gardener's nirvana. However, for this gardener, coming from Montreal, England seems like heaven. As for placing Scott in a challenging gardening climate, I must apologize. Not only was that a typo error but I have no empirical evidence to support that statement. I have corrected my text. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

February 1, 2015 | Registered CommenterAllan

I love the salvia river at Lurie! What great photos you have shared. I bought one of Oudolf's books and admire his style, but I'm so darn allergic to grasses (sneezing and a rash), that I can't use many of his ideas. But it's nice to admire his work in other places.

February 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVW

VW, I have adapted some of Piet's ideas without using grasses, by substituting tall perennials such as Thalictrum, Filipendula, tall summer Phlox, P.G. Hydrangeas and Eupatorium.

February 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterAllan

I've been a big fan of Scott's blog for a long time, and was lucky enough to visit his garden this past summer. Regarding the Lurie Garden, it is a ten minute walk from my office, so I visit often. In relation to the whole native plants discussion, it's interesting that Lurie looks remarkably natural even though it is planned and edited with great care. It is a mix of Midwestern and exotic plants - but the exotics look like they belong on the prairie. And some of the natives have been removed because they are too aggressive.

February 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Jason, the discussion about the significant value of native plants to our environment tends to ignore the fact that some are too aggressive for the urban and weekend gardener to manage.

February 22, 2015 | Registered CommenterAllan

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