Lindera glauca var. salicifolia

Garden Designers Roundtable: Horticulture/Design Idols

by Andrew Keys on November 22, 2011

I’m quite certain I won’t be the only designer on GDRT to talk about Piet Oudolf. Nor should I, in my opinion–I’m incredibly thankful to be working in a world where Oudolf is still in vogue, and yes, I think he is, because even though Oudolf-type gardens aren’t uncommon now, I see his design style trickling down to the mainstream the way these things tend to, and THAT, my friends, is exciting.

So yes, I’m going to talk about Piet Oudolf as a horticultural idol, but I hope in a different way from my colleagues. There are so many reasons to love Oudolf’s work, but one of my faves is that, through beautiful design, he’s made so many designers realize “It’s okay to do X.” As in, “It’s okay to use terrifically unique perennials in your designs–they work just as well, and your clients will appreciate that they’re something special,” and “It’s okay to be a plant collector–good design can make it so your collection serves you well too.”

The “it’s okay to” thing Oudolf has popularized in design I want to talk about today is a timely one. It’s late fall here in Mass, and we’re at that magic hour where leaves are gone from trees, but before the first snow that sticks around. I live for this period. Yep, you heard right. There’s a stillness to this time, and an innocence… The newly leafless world is notably quieter, more serene, and I love making note of that change. Winters here are harsh, and they stand out more profoundly for me than other seasons do mentally, like that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Part of me can’t help but feel that, when temperatures drop, we’ve all returned to our natural state, the trees and me.

What does this have to do with Piet Oudolf, you ask? Well, another thing he says is “It’s okay to love senescence–brown can be beautiful.” and I love that he gives voice to that quality in the garden. We Americans, though not necessarily fastidious, tend to want to be tidy in the garden. If I completely “cleaned up” my garden before spring, I’d miss all this gorgeousness. Take a gander.

Check out the rest of the Roundtable’s take on idols, with special guest Thomas Rainer of grounded design:

Thomas Rainer : Grounded Design : Arlington, Virginia
Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT
Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA
Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

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