DryStoneGarden

Plants, Stone, California Landscapes

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Hortus

My favorite garden in Europe after or alongside Vlinderhof is Hortus, the home garden and nursery of Peter Janke in Hilden, Germany, near Cologne. It’s great. It feaatures classic design elements but sometimes tweaked with more contemporary materials and a modern sense of balance. I find I can usually tell everything that’s happening in a formal garden with a single glance, but his garden is worth exploring. Nice plant combos and interesting contrasts between formal geometry and informal plantings. I took a lot of photos and could have easily taken more.

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Hermannshof Garden

‘At Hermannshof we don’t follow trends. We make them.’ Cassian Schmidt, feeling his oats.

In Germany I visited Hermannshof, a botanical garden a little south of Frankfurt. The garden goes back hundreds of years, but in the last couple decades it has become known for experimental meadow plantings designed by its horticulturalist Cassian Schmidt. Apparently, he has trialed and introduced a lot of plants over the years, and influenced Dutch and German designers, including Piet Oudolf. It’s a lovely garden, but as a designer from California, I found it hard to figure out what was experimental or which plants were Hermannshof introductions; most of the plants were familiar to me and I didn’t see anything particularly novel or surprising about the way they were combined in the meadow plantings. It was all very nice, but seemed well in line with plantings in the botanical gardens we have in California. But afterwards I listened to a talk he gave for a Beth Chatto symposium, and it gave some background about the research or methods underlying the plantings. It’s embedded at the end of the post; this link takes you to slides from the talk, including some interesting graphics and photos that blow doors off the photos I took at the garden.

In any case, it’s a lovely garden. The meadows are planted in large blocks and their effect is pretty dramatic as a result. A bunch of plants of similar heights will almost always look nice together, and this was no exception. Echinacia and grasses, Euphorbia and grasses, Gaura and grasses, it’s all pretty nice.


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Dutch Planting Style

Along with the Piet Oudolf gardens, I saw a lot of other great plantings as I cycled through Holland. Dutch public spaces embrace the exuberance and wildness of plants in a way that is rare to see here in California. These photos are just one example from a random planting around a playground in Loenen aand de Vecht, a Dutch town that just happened to be on my route. I don’t know anything about this planting except that it seems to be the product of a designer and culture that loves plants.

Rotterdam

The third Oudolf planting I saw was in Rotterdam, near the Erasmus Bridge. Beautiful bridge, with the plantings as a lovely foreground, though I was there a few weeks late to see the garden in its prime. Some of the plants were struggling with the mid-day sun, but afterwards I found out that I was there on the hottest day in the history of the Netherlands, so that’s understandable.

The planting has more of a mediterranean palette than the other two gardens. It has a lot of the plants I use such as Nepeta and Teucrium, unlike Vlinderhof which features mostly plants that don’t do well in the Bay Area.

Plants that I use, plus Echinacia; I never plant it, but I would if I could get it to look this. As at Vlinderhof and Singer Laren, it was putting on the biggest show in the garden.

It was my third favorite of the Oudolf gardens I saw, but third favorite Oudolf is still exceptional. A lovely spot.

Singer Laren

After Vlinderhof, I visited Piet Oudolf’s new planting for the Singer Laren Sculpture Garden. It’s a great space, wonderfully pleasant, everything you want in a garden. I didn’t particularly care about any of the individual sculptures — sculpture is always a bit hit and miss and, for me, the Laren collection is pretty much all miss — and after seeing the perfection of Vlinderhof’s planting, I found the plantings at Singer Laren a step down. At Vlinderhof virtually every plant was in perfect synch, all pulling together to make the best meadow planting I’ve ever seen; Singer Laren was interesting for the small ways it fell short of Vlinderhof’s perfection. But if I sound critical, that’s not right, I really liked it. It’s a great place, recommended to everyone. A coffee and a pastry in the sun at the Singer Laren garden… wonderful.

It’s fairly common to see a single sculpture set in an ornamental planting in a garden, but I’d never seen an entire museum collection set within plantings by someone of Oudolf’s skill and stature. On their own I wouldn’t have cared about the sculptures, but the plantings elevated them.

As at Vlinderhof, Oudolf gets a lot of mileage from his Echinacia.

At Vlinderhof, the ornamental grass is a perfect backdrop for Liatris. Here the Liatris looks good but not exceptional.

This garden underlines how important scale is to Oudolf’s planting style. The planting beds that are roughly 25′ x 25′ have the distinctive Piet Oudolf look that has become such a phenomenon. The smaller beds, despite using roughly the same plants and planting strategy, are nice but very ordinary.

But so many of the planting beds are big and beautiful. A wonderful garden.

Piet Oudolf’s Vlinderhof Garden

One of the first things I did on this bike trip was check out Piet Oudolf’s garden at Vlinderhof in Utrecht. I’ve been following Oudolf’s work through photographs and videos for years and I’d seen the underwhelming spring version of his High Line plantings, but this was the first proper Piet Oudolf planting I’d seen in person, and it blew me away. Almost every plant was in full bloom, every plant was in synch, every plant helped to make every other plant shine. It’s the best meadow planting I’ve ever seen.

I’d read about Vlinderhof in other blog posts throughout the years: RhoneStreetGardens part 1 and part 2, Federaltwist a year later, video of the garden by photographer Hans van Horssen, in summer and fall. My thanks to them for bringing to to my attention.