Landscape Literacy

Giants of Landscape Architecture: Piet Oudolf

A garden in western Ireland by Piet Oudolf. Image: Piet Oudolf: Landscapes in Landscapes

Piet Oudolf, a Dutch landscape designer, truly has a vision for natural landscape. A nurseryman at heart, Oudolf has an impeccable eye for quality plant material. Combining his vision and eye has allowed him to bring a new perspective to landscape design. Oudolf also wrote several books, including Gardening with Grasses (1998), Dream Plants for the Natural Garden (2000), Planting the Natural Garden (2003), Designing with Plants (1999), Planting Design: Gardens in Time and Space (2005), Landscapes in Landscapes (2011), and Planting: A New Perspective (2013).

Oudolf embraces the concept of less traditional and more natural landscape by combining plants and allowing them to grow and spread freely. While this concept may sound, it takes both knowledge of planting and instinct to allow such a vision to succeed. It can also be difficult to maintain such a design as plants will compete against one another in growth and form a natural but beautiful chaos. Because of that, many public landscape designs are centered on the idea that future durability relies on the level of maintenance sustained, therefore calling for more formal plantings. Instead of this idea intimidating Oudolf, he chose to outsmart it and opted for hearty plants that adapt and suit in order to fit his design preferences. Self-seeding plants are minimal in Oudolf’s designs and perennials that require less maintenance are preferred.

Lurie Garden – Located in Chicago, this garden is the combined work of Piet Oudolf, Kathryn Gustafson, and Robert Israel, and illustrates Oudolf’s natural landscape design concept.

By Ruhrfisch (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

High Line – Oudolf was the planting designer for this collaborative park design in New York City.

By Beyond My Ken (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons