Much like Fran Sorin (as she noted in her fabulous three part interview last month), I am a huge fan of Oudolf’s unique style. His gardens intrigue me and his design aesthetic influences my work. I’ve enjoyed all of his books. My close proximity to the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago provides seasonal opportunities to appreciate the development of one of his grand scale gardens and study plant combinations in person.
You might then imagine my excitement when the opportunity to travel to The Netherlands presented itself!
Due to the large number of photos I collected over the two days I visited the Oudolf’s garden I’ve divided them into Flickr slide-shows so readers will have an opportunity to ‘walk through’ the property in a somewhat logical fashion (Approach, Front Garden, Patio Garden, Studio, Trial Garden and Nursery). I’ll offer a brief commentary on each area. Additionally, I am including a link to a Google Maps satellite image of the Oudolf property (Broekstraat 17, Hummelo). It may prove useful to reference the image when viewing the slideshows.
Please note, I am not a professional photographer. These photos were taken primarily for my personal use.
APPROACH (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)
From Amsterdam, it took about 2 1/2 hours (via train, then a bus) to reach the Oudolf’s property. It is in a rural setting just outside the village of Hummelo. From satellite images, the main house appears to be centered on the property. It was not completely visible from the road, due to substantial straight clipped hedges of beech (Fagus sylvatica), English yew (Taxus baccata) and organic clipped hedges of beech, oak, Amelanchier, Cornus mas and Acer campestre. I walked through a gated entry and up a cobble drive to reach the main house and entrance. There was a lovely mixed border with ornamental trees, small shrubs and various perennials which flanked the drive (to the right) with hedging as a backdrop. In a couple of places there were breaks in the hedge to allow strategic glimpses into the front garden.
FRONT GARDEN (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)
I entered the front garden, near the house, through an opening in the hedge and onto a stone terrace where Stipa tennuissima volunteers were growing.
Immediately in front of the stone terrace was a large turf area surrounded with mixed borders. The turf was bisected by a diagonal walk which lead to a circular bed of Miscanthus. Two-thirds of the way down the walk, as I approached the Miscanthus focal point, my attention shifted to the entrance to a second garden room. At that moment, I was compelled to break from the walk and move toward the entrance.
As a designer that was an impactful moment! I realized the garden I’d been dying to see was directly in front of me. I had just walked past it as I came up the drive. Oudolf masterfully created a sense of anticipation using of hedges to obscure views into the main garden (from the drive and the turf area), gaps in the hedges to allow glimpses in and focal points (like the bed of Miscanthus) to direct the eye until he was ready to reveal the garden.
I had seen many photos of this garden. However, I was not prepared for its impact in person (I even returned a second day to spend some time in the space, alone). The garden is a breathtaking testament to Oudolf’s artistic ability as well as his intimate knowledge of plants. Please enjoy the slide-show.
PATIO GARDEN (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)
Several grass filled beds softened an expansive brick patio which joined the main house and two outbuildings.
STUDIO (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)
Oudolf’s studio, a two year old contemporary brick structure, sits at the back of the property (it does not appear on the satellite image). It is separated from the nursery section by a relatively simple border including- Rhus typhina, Calamgrostis, Molinia, Spodiopogon, Angelica gigas and Sanguisorba. I took pause as I approached this area. I was struck by the obvious beauty and relative simplicity of the planting scheme as well as the borders effectiveness as a boundary and transition into a more contemporary space.
TRIAL GARDEN (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)
Behind the nursery and adjacent to the studio were what appeared to be trial beds. Assorted perennials were interspersed with grasses in narrow rows. I intend to experiment with a similar layout at my home in central Illinois.
I was taken with the Bush Clematis (C. heracleiaflora ‘China Purple’) in photos 2 and 3.
NURSERY (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)
Plant material was tastefully displayed in the nursery. It was laid out on the ground and created an almost garden-like setting. The space was very clean (free of benches, signage and usual display items/clutter found in typical US garden centers), which allowed the plants to shine. I loved Oudolf’s use of weeping willow-leaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) pruned into columns.
If you would like to see images of the hundreds of plants sold at the Oudolf’s nursery, follow the link to a Flickr slide-show (all images in the slide-show are courtesy Piet & Anja Oudolf).
On a personal note, I introduced myself to Piet after I had toured the property. He was incredibly open and generous with his time: going so far as to step away from his guests and give me a tour of his studio, where he graciously entertained all my questions, shared some of his current projects and recommended a few other gardens to visit.
In a year with several professional highs, my visit to the Oudolf’s garden and conversation with Piet top the list. Quite honestly, I haven’t fully processed the entire experience. I know that I have been greatly impacted by it. I feel a heightened sense of responsibility (to myself) to find my niche, perfect my craft and enjoy the process. It appears Piet has done just that!