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

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Entries in meadow gardens (4)


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


Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’: Is This Perennial Too Good to be True?

Image: vivaces.netTwo summers ago, I planted Persicaria Firetail with some trepidation; I wasn’t convinced that it would grow in my area. Some sellers promised that it is winter hardy to USDA Zone 4 while others suggested Zone 5. Lucky for me, it survived its first winter in Zone 4, and by the end of the second season, it had grown sufficiently to be propagated.

I was attracted to this plant because of its casualness and its long bloom period. It appears to be the sort of perennial best suited to a cottage garden. It is also ideal for a flowerbed with a meadow theme, as it looks stunning when combined with ornamental grasses.

image: defriesgardens.comThe most impressive characteristic of this plant is that by insinuating itself among other perennials – it must be seen to be believed - it weaves a theme of crimson through my garden to anchor all of the other hot colored flowers that bloom there.

Firetail will spread to 4 feet in diameter. By its second year, most of that spread appears to have taken place above ground. I cannot report with any accuracy if its root base, growing exponentially from its center, will also spread that wide underground. Nor am I able to predict if it will, or will not, choke out neighboring plants. More growing time is required to accumulate that information.

image: flowerfarmandgardens.blogspot.comCrimson is not a color I would embrace in my English style pastel gardens, however, the brown fence that separates me from my neighbor calls for yellows, corals, and red flowers. Consequently, the flowerbed located in front of the fence has become home to yellow helianthus, heliposis, vivid achillea, and a variety of coral, tangerine, and scarlet-colored hemerocallis.  A crimson plant, like Firetail, that can hold its own in this tropically colored setting, is a welcome addition.

The second most impressive characteristic about this plant is the longevity of its flowers; it blooms June to October and sometimes to the first frost. In the future, I will have to decide if its extended bloom period warrants growing such a spreading plant in an urban flowerbed.

Firetail in my garden in September, after all other perennials have finished blooming.The third most impressive characteristic about this sprawling plant is the root ball. While fleshy and dense, it is easily divisible from its extremities.

Persicaria amplexicaulis Firetail, also known as Polygonum amplexicaule Firetail, is a tall, upright, spreading perennial, which forms large, dense, bushy clumps of leathery dark green leaves, typically 3 to 4 feet tall. This tall foliage supports bottle brush-shaped crimson flowering spikes, up to 6 inches long, which bloom all summer.

This plant needs elbow room to achieve its potential. Without ample space, it will weave itself among other perennials, which, frankly, is a rather artistic way to grow this plant.

As it crochets its way throughout my flowerbed, it is about to enter year three of its growth. Therefore, I am unable to report on its long-term development. One of the problems with recently introduced varieties is that there is no established garden lore to guide us. Who can predict how it will behave when it matures?

Sellers recommend this plant for massing in moist areas, but I have grown it in a rather dry location. Perhaps that is why it took two years to make its presence felt.

Unlike its white, spectacular cousin, the strongly territorial Persicaria polymorpha, this cultivar is not too aggressive. However, like its cousin, it needs lots of space to grow. While this plant is a steady spreader, it is not considered to be invasive. Only time can judge that characteristic, because one gardener’s spread might be considered another gardener’s invasion.

Firetail grows in sun and part shade, in normal, sandy, or clay soil providing the earth is moist. It attracts butterflies, and is deer and rabbit resistant. Due to its spreading habit, some might consider experimenting with it as ground cover.


Wildflower Meadows: Rob Cardillo Creates a Landscape Masterpiece

Image is the copyright property of Rob Cardillo and used here with his permission.Those who read illustrated garden books or magazines are familiar with the work of the talented photographer, Rob Cardillo. Over the years, we have come to appreciate his intimate images of flowers, fruit, foliage, ornamental shrubs, as well as close ups of beautiful garden compositions. Whether it’s inside a book or on a magazine cover, Rob’s photography is first class.

This month, fans of his work are in for a treat. The September/October 2011 edition of Garden Design, a recently revamped magazine, commissioned Rob to photograph the private retreat of Larry Weaner, a designer of natural-looking landscapes, with 200 meadows to his credit. Mr. Weaner’s property, a retreat situated outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania, is the subject of an article written by Bill Marken and titled Pasture Perfect: Wildflowers and meadows create a sustainable rural retreat. Some of the photo outtakes from that project appear in this post.

Image is the copyright property of Rob Cardillo and is used here with his permission.In this photo essay, Rob Cardillo’s images are pivotal because, with their publication, he raises the bar for his own work and moves from respected photographer to Impressionist artist. Some of his perspectives of the Weaner garden capture light as an element of garden design. In one picture it appears as strong rays of sun flooding down, and through, tree branches, while in another, it illuminates, from afar, tree foliage and grasses. In Mr. Cardillo's own words:That garden is especially gorgeous in the morning when the sun breaks through the summer fog. 

The color blue features prominently in most of the photographs in this project. In one, it is found in an overcast sky. In another, it is revealed in multi hued patio stones. A colorful flower garden next to a water feature highlights the Caribbean blue that lines a pool, while a shade of violet-blue is picked up by the sun as it hits the shingles of a barn’s roof. In each instance, blue effectively sets off all of the other colors in the picture.

A double-page opening photograph captures the garden in overcast weather. The flowers on the right hand page trick the eye into thinking that the petals were brushed onto a painter’s canvas; there is a desire to reach out and touch them. The ethereal qualities of the image is captivating, while the directional lines of a brown fence tapering into the near background - but not the horizon - draws the viewer into the scene. The artist/photographer has created a masterpiece.

When I first came upon the double-page photo, I heard myself gasp with surprise and awe; I couldn’t take my eyes away from it. For over a week, the magazine remained open, to the left of my placemat on the kitchen table as I stared at it endlessly. Something kept drawing me to - and into - the picture. I wanted to step inside and lean against the brown fence and experience the hypnotic landscape just as the photographer discovered it - such is the talent of this artist.

I never expected to see pictures of this quality in a mass market garden magazine. Even the epitome of all horticultural publications, Gardens Illustrated, does not featured photography of this caliber. I hope that Mr. Weaner feels honored that the distinguished artist/photographer Rob Cardillo has forever preserved his magical retreat with such exquisite imagery


"Perennial Meadows": a New Gardening Blog

Image used with the permission of Michael KingThe perennial meadow is a variation of the prairie or meadow garden. In some parts of North America, where growing conditions are favorable, the meadow garden is slowly becoming an alternative landscape treatment to the expansive, rolling lawn. Some brave urban dwellers have also begun experimenting with it in their front and back yards. Using attractive photos of his work, a new garden blogger, demonstrates how he tackles this innovative planting style in moist Zone 7.

Image used with the permission of Michael KingMichael King is a garden designer, author and garden photographer. Book titles to his credit include Gardening with Grasses [written with Piet Oudolf], Gardening with Tulips, and Perennial Garden Design. In addition to a joint honors degree in Botany and Microbiology, he trained as an accountant and in the1980’s won the plum position as head of finance and administration at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, UK. For the last 20 years, Mr. King has been living in the Netherlands, specializing in perennials, ornamental grasses and tulips. His blog focuses on aesthetically planted meadows. The writing is delightful and he supplies more detailed information about the perennial meadow designing/ planting process than is readily available anywhere else online. Instead of suggesting what we might do, he shows us how he does it. This refreshing blog is aptly titled Perennial Meadows. Click here to visit his site.