Plants, Stone, California Landscapes



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. These large planting beds with large patches of perennials are quite nice.

It has 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.

Amsterdam to Italy

I did another bicycle trip this summer, riding from Amsterdam to Italy. Fun times. I started in Dutch canal and windmill country, rode down through Belgium, bits of France, Luxembourg and Germany, then to Basel, Zurich, and Innsbruck, and then down through the Dolomites to just outside Venice. I went thru 9 countries all told, though that includes about 20 minutes crossing Liechtenstein. I took lots of photos of gardens and stone along the way which I’ll be showing in the future. For now, these are my drawings from the trip.
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Piet Oudolf on TV

Piet Oudolf on the PBS Newshour and then a longer documentary from Holland (turn on the Closed Captioning if, like me, you don’t speak Dutch). The Newshour has some nice looks at his drawings. The Dutch documentary has a fun scene of him squabbling with contractors at a jobsite. My favorite quote: ‘I always enter like a kind of evil spirit at the last moment.’

Nubuo Sekine

Nobuo Sekine Interview: Sensibility of a Rock from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

‘One day, as one large rock that was on the ground was being lifted into the air — at that exact moment — I had an epiphany that this action had changed the meaning of its existence’ Nabuo Sekine

Japanese Sculptor Nobuo Sekine passed away a few days ago. He was one of the originators of Mono-Ha, a conceptual art movement from the late sixties that I find interesting but elusive. I’m hesitant to even try to describe it, I feel too distant from the time period and the culture, other than to say that a lot of it has roots in the Japanese rock garden tradition. There are other influences at play as well, but I see elements of both the rock garden philosophy and craft, and kindred ideas about materials, context, and spatial relationships. A lot of Sekine’s works use found objects, frequently those found objects are stones, and, as can be seen in this video, a lot of his work seem to have its origin in the artist standing and staring at a stone and meditating on how to transform it into a work of art.