Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


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 and methods underlying the plantings. The talk is 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.

I enjoyed the meadows, but for me the single best feature was this heritage Ginkgo, the oldest and largest one I’ve ever seen.

And the best planting design element is the way the trunk of virtually every tree in the garden rises from a large patch of a single ground cover. I wasn’t there on a good day for photographing shade areas, so I only took a few photos of them, but I saw numerous examples. It’s quite effective.

And in general the shade plantings have a very clean style, with distinct blocks of nicely contrasting foliage. Lush and green.

Several different blogs have posted about Hermannshof over the past few years: The New Perennialist, TheGardenWanderer, and GardenRant. Karl Garcens III has a great Flickr collection of photos from the garden; seems like he was there earlier in the year than me when the garden was little more in its prime. The talk below gives a good description of the ideas underlying the plantings at Hermannshof.

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