Perennially Precious

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Piet Oudolf Lurie Garden Millennium Park Chicago

Piet Oudolf the most influential garden designer in a generation, has radically redefined what gardens can be, moving them well into the realm of art. In the new immersive documentary, Fall Winter Spring Summer Fall: Five Seasons With Piet Oudolf, viewers gain a rare and poetic look at the creative process of this revolutionary figure, including intimate discussions across all fours seasons in his own private garden, and on visits to his signature public works in New York, Chicago, and the Netherlands, as well as to the far-flung locations that inspire his genius, including desert wildflowers in West Texas and post-industrial forests in Pennsylvania. Threaded throughout the film, Oudolf designs, installs and then opens a major new garden at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, a work Piet himself calls his best yet.

Fall Winter Spring Summer Fall: Five Seasons With Piet Oudolf Documentary Trailer 2016, A film by Thomas Piper. One of the films that will premiere in the 8th edition of the New York Architecture & Design Film Festival which runs 28th September through 2nd October, 2016 at Cinépolis Chelsea. The nation’s largest film festival devoted to celebrating the unique creative spirit that drives architecture and design. For an A-Z list of selected films see here. With a curated selection of films, events and panel discussions, ADFF creates an opportunity to entertain, engage and educate all types of people who are excited about architecture and design.

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Piet Oudolf’s artful garden landscapes throughout the world, all of which are designed with a low-maintenance philosophy, are simply magical, in every season.

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Oudolf believes that his work has intellectual depth, which it does in that it is beautifully thought through all of these levels, but it is also about a feeling. And this is why his landscape designs touch so many people. He also believes it is important to use plants that have an “afterlife” and are good once they are over, which in turn makes the plantings better for ecology and insect life.

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Mother Nature may make meadows, but Oudolf perfects them with seasonal sweeps of vegetation, including Sicilian Honey Garlic, Rudbeckia, Coneflowers, Joe-Pye Weed, and ‘Shenandoah’ Red Switchgrass. “Structure is the basis of all planting combinations, but traditional gardening has a lot of dogmas. I prefer to let things go their own way,” Oudolf says.

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Best known for establishing enchanting, inspiring and resilient landscapes utilizing bold movements of perennial plants and grasses, Oudolf’s style is one of texture, fragrance, and color, with a particular interest in seasonal variation, plant life cycle, and transformation over time.

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Piet Oudolf has done for perennial gardening what artist Leonard Koren did for the concept of wabi-sabi: popularized and modernized an under-the-radar movement. Oudolf’s approach to planting extends beyond the technical to concepts of composition, time and temporality, repetition, and contrast. His goal is to create “dreamscapes.”

About

Piet Oudolf, the influential Dutch garden designer, nurseryman and author, is the leading figure of the “New Perennial” movement, known for using bold drifts of herbaceous perennials and grasses which are chosen at least as much for their structure as for their flower color. Working primarily with perennial plant varieties, Oudolf practices a naturalistic approach to gardening. Taking a cue from architectural design, Oudolf prioritizes the seasonal life cycle of a plant over decorative considerations like flower or colour, focusing primarily on structural characteristics, such as leaf or seed pod shape, present before and after a plant has flowered. He explains: “A garden is exciting for me when it looks good through the year, not just at one particular time. I want to go outside and for it to be interesting in all weather, in early Spring and late Autumn.”

The stability of perennials after planting are key to Oudolf’s designs. Unlike self-seeding or bulb-based plants that spread and require division each season, perennials remain in established formations. The result is gardens that persist in their planned state years after being planted with little deviation from Oudolf’s hand drawn maps. An overall approach to planting with a painter’s perspective informed by ecology.

Of the eight books the designer has co-authored these three are The Artful Blog’s favorites to date:

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Designing with Plants by Piet Oudolf (Author), Noel Kingsbury (Author), Timber Press, 1999. Trained as an architect, Oudolf values plants as much for their form and texture as for their color. He is the founder of New Wave Planting, a spectacular naturalistic style of landscape design. Oudolf stresses the importance of choosing plants that “live well and die well,” so that from birth in the spring through the crescendo of Summer to the stark beauty of Autumn and Winter the garden presents continuing drama and interest.

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Planting: A New Perspective by Piet Oudolf (Author), Noel Kingsbury (Author), Timber Press, 2013. Essential resource for designers and gardeners looking to create plant-rich, beautiful gardens that support biodiversity and nourish the human spirit. An intimate knowledge of plants is essential to the success of modern landscape design, and Planting makes Oudolf’s considerable understanding of plant ecology and performance accessible, explaining how plants behave in different situations, what goes on underground, and which species make good neighbors. Extensive plant charts and planting plans will help you choose plants for their structure, color, and texture as well as the way they perform in the landscape. A detailed directory with details like each plant’s life expectancy, the persistence of its seedheads, its tendency to spread, and propensity to self-seed, this book is a beautiful and invaluable resource.

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Hummelo: A Journey Through a Plantsman’s Life by Piet Oudolf (Author), Noel Kingsbury (Author), The Monacelli Press, 2015. An intimate look at the personal garden of the Dutch landscape designer. Hummelo -near the village of the same name in Gelderland in the Eastern Netherlands, is visited by thousands of gardeners seeking inspiration each year. It is Piet Oudolf’s home, his personal garden laboratory, a former nursery run by his wife Anja, and the place where he first tested new designs and created the new varieties of perennials that are now widely available.

Hummelo tells the story of how the garden has evolved over the past three decades since Oudolf and his family moved onto the property, with its loamy sand and derelict, wood stove-heated farmhouse, in 1982. Text by noted garden author and longtime personal friend Noel Kingsbury places Hummelo in context within gardening history, from The Netherlands’ counterculture and nascent green movement of the 1960s, to prairie restoration in the American Midwest, and shows how its development has mirrored that of Oudolf’s own outstanding career and unique naturalistic aesthetic.