Lessons from Piet

love this photo copyOne of the many lessons we can learn from the internationally acclaimed gardener Piet Oudolf is to procrastinate…Put off your fall garden clean up work until spring!

Piet Oudolf has been designing gardens for 35 years, including gardens in Chicago’s Millenium Park, and New Yorks Battery Park and the recent High Line Park. He is a master of well composed gardens because he knows his medium so well; the plants color and form, how they propogate and even how they die. In Piet’s gardens the skeletal structures and sculptural forms of decomposing plants are not cut back or trimmed or raked out (which we perceive as standard garden maintenance). Instead Piet considers the full life cycle of the plant as crucial to the balanced composition of a garden.

Ornamental grasses and prickly seed heads still visible in October, remind us that time and process are part of a living garden. Piet announces that “brown is a color” and that accepting death and allowing plants to decompose “meets an emotional need in people”. Personally, I am attracted to his view that something old, decomposing, and disregarded can actually be beautiful.

The Piet Oudolf gardens in these photos are beautiful and serene. They are not exuberant with obvious pleasant bright colors or scents or buzzing bees, but rather feel comfortable, as if the plants designed the garden themselves.

So enjoy the fall weather, look closely at plants and ditch the rake.

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  1. Fall is a truly beautiful season, when nature takes time to rest and replenish. The pictures truly capture this; thanks.

  2. I really appreciate the broad use of texture and color for the winter season. This reminds me a lot of Oehme Van Sweden’s work, rich in perennials. It seems like there were a couple decades that relied overly on junipers as one of the only ways of getting winter interest.

  3. When I cleaned my garden this past weekend, out of habit I cut everything back….and now wish I had left some of the perennials. A habit I’ll change next fall.

    I really enjoyed this piece, thank you.

  4. Animals use the landscape (garden) as habitat (cover) and a food source in winter. Leave seed heads for birds that do not migrate. Fall clean-up can wait till spring…

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