Reviewer Allan Becker: Allan has been designing and planting flower gardens, since he was a teenager in the 1960's. Now retired from the soft goods industry, where he held several positions in design, product development, and marketing, he has turned his passion for gardening into a second career, as a garden designer for private clients in Montreal, Canada.
Authors: Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury
We live in historic times, horticultural, that is. The most forward-looking and inspiring garden designer of the 21st century is Piet Oudolf. Based in the Netherlands but working world wide, he is responsible for a historic shift in the appearance of contemporary landscapes. His work is both riveting and controversial and pushes the boundaries of modernity in the garden.
Authors: Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury
We live in historic times, horticultural, that is. The most forward-looking and inspiring garden designer of the 21st century is Piet Oudolf. Based in the Netherlands but working world wide, he is responsible for a historic shift in the appearance of contemporary landscapes. His work is both riveting and controversial and pushes the boundaries of modernity in the garden. Noel Kingsbury, an eminent garden designer and garden writer, co-wrote this book with Oudolf in 1999 to explain Oudolf’s work to a wider audience. Eleven years later, it is as timely and relevant as it was when it was first published.
The signature of an Oudolf landscape is the deconstruction of the formal garden, reconstituted with influences from the meadow garden. Oudolf had found the formal garden too stifling and the meadow garden too messy. The resulting gardens that he created include design features from both styles that are revolutionary in concept and breathtaking to behold.
Five elements contribute to an Oudolf-style garden: First, is the ruthless and thorough selection of wild or lush looking plants, arranged in formal patterns. Second, is the painterly and architectural role played by flower heads, both blooming and spent, and thirdly, is the deliberate twisting of the axis of symmetry that leads the eye to the ends of the flowerbeds, thereby drawing the viewer deeper into the mood of the garden. Fourth, is the use of ornamental grasses to supply structure to the over all design and lastly, is a directive to leave spent perennials uncut during winter, thereby allowing the plants to contribute visual interest all season long. It is Oudolf’s belief that cutting down perennials in winter is absurd. It is no more than rigid folklore with little foundation. Furthermore, he holds that most of what is written about gardening, in the English language, is mere dogma based on principles of safe harmonies. Oudolf encourages gardeners to be adventurous and create their own rules, much in the same way that many American gardeners have been doing for quite some time. According to Kingsbury, perpetuating British gardening traditions reflects a backward looking mentality.
An Oudolf garden begins with a planting palette made up of form, leaves and color. Design schemes are created by combing forms, colors, structure, adding filler plants, grasses and umbellifers. The design is further enhanced with repetition and rhythm. Mood is created with light, movement and harmony. Finally, the year round visual interest of plants from their infancy to their death is another dominant element.
This is not a garden design book for the beginner. It is predicated on an accumulated knowledge of the behavior of perennials and grasses. Some familiarity with traditional styles of garden design will help the reader to appreciate the botanical brilliance that is Piet Ouldolf.
Gardeners that have already attempted medium or large scale garden designs will find these revolutionary ideas easy to understand and moderately challenging to adopt. At the least, they are exciting. Although this reviewer discovered Designing with Plants eleven years after it was published, it has been a worthwhile and mind-expanding experience. No garden designer should remain uninformed about Piet Oudolf.
Click Here To Purchase Designing with Plants