Right here in New England winter is lengthy, particularly for gardeners. We need to be outdoors within the backyard however most days we are able to’t actually do a lot. I compensate by studying about gardening from books. I just lately completed a great one, “Hummelo: A Journey By a Plantsman’s Life,” by Piet (which is pronounced Pete) Oudolf and Noël Kingsbury.
With greater than 400 pages, it may appear daunting, however I’d estimate that just about half of these pages are coloration photographs of the gardens Oudlof designed, with loads from his dwelling in Hummelo, Netherlands. It’s written by Kingsbury, a well known British backyard author, and by Oudolf himself.
Oudolf was the first designer of the Excessive Line gardens in New York Metropolis, a backyard planted on a piece of an deserted elevated railway line in midtown Manhattan. This 1.45-mile planting is constantly rated within the prime 10 most visited locations in New York Metropolis.
The e book follows Oudolf’s life as a backyard designer and plantsman. Along with the Excessive Line, he designed gardens in Chicago and Detroit and plenty of in Europe. The e book follows his skilled life and illustrates the modifications. Many crops within the photographs should not labeled, however extra superior gardeners will acknowledge them, and plenty of are talked about within the textual content. Though some frequent names are used, most are recognized by the scientific names with the genus, species and cultivar, which I discover useful when finding out the crops and discovering out in the event that they are hardy in my zone.
So what makes Oudolf one of the well-known backyard designers ever? First, he’s a extremely achieved plantsman. When he specifies crops for a backyard, he is aware of what they should do effectively. He began out along with his spouse, Anja, rising a lot of the crops he utilized in his designs, typically rising and choosing crops for years earlier than utilizing them.
He is aware of every plant, together with its root system and its functionality to fill in areas by seeding in or spreading by rhizomes. He grew and used crops that have been largely illness resistant. His gardens not often must be replanted as a result of the crops seldom fail. I ought to be aware that now he doesn’t develop his personal crops; he simply specifies them and has others develop them for him, typically from inventory he perfected.
Oudolf makes use of many tall grasses in his designs. He loves the best way they add construction and kind to a design, and that they final effectively into winter. He’s much less curious about coloration than different designers. He loves the look of seed heads and stems after the (comparatively quick) bloom interval is over. He’s quoted within the e book as saying, “A plant is simply value rising if it additionally seems good when it’s useless.” Since he bred crops for toughness, I assume he means dormant, not useless.
Oudolf is a rule breaker. He has tried issues that others had not. He says, “I uncover magnificence in issues that on first sight should not stunning. It’s a journey in life to search out out what actual magnificence is — and to note that it’s in every single place.”
Early in his profession, Oudolf used giant blocks of a single species of a plant. However as he refined his designs, he began intermingling a number of giant, tall crops inside a block. He planted them repeatedly, as repetition provides a way of unity and coherence to a backyard. In contrast to many designers, he truly lays out his gardens himself as a substitute of drawing a plan and handing it off to gardeners. Oudolf is initially a gardener. He loves crops and is aware of them like his ever-present canine.
What did I be taught from this e book? Given a big area to design, like Oudolf, I’d largely use native crops. They’re robust and, if correctly sited, will final effectively. I like his philosophy that plant variety is sweet, however that an excessive amount of variety can overwhelm our capability to understand the entire.
I’m, by temperament, a plant collector — I need to attempt numerous crops. However seeing the photographs of Oudolf’s gardens, I acknowledge that by shopping for — or rising — a number of crops as a substitute of simply three (my traditional buy), I can create a extra highly effective show.
Studying this e book, I made notes of crops I need to attempt. Amongst these is Eryngium giganteum, a sea holly that will get to be 3 to 4 toes tall with spiny, egg-shaped blossoms and white bracts. Miss Willmott’s Ghost is available on-line, although I’ve by no means seen it on the market in a nursery.
One other plant that appears nice is Agastache nepetoides, yellow big hyssop. It’s deer-resistant and massive, rising to six toes tall with flower spikes as much as 16 inches lengthy. In fall and winter, the dry seed heads are fabulous, significantly in counterpoint to dry grasses.
I really feel blessed that I used to be capable of meet Oudolf and interview him at his dwelling in Hummelo, Holland, in 2007. He was very beneficiant along with his time and his data.
This glorious e book was produced by The Monacelli Press, and it is obtainable in paperback. To me, or any critical gardener or designer, it’s a treasure. You may wish to thumb by way of it earlier than you determine whether it is for you, particularly if you’re a starting gardener. When you’ve got large areas to fill, you’re going to get many concepts.
Henry Homeyer’s weblog seems twice every week at gardening-guy.com. Write to him at P.O. Field 364, Cornish Flat, N.H. 03746. Please embrace a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you want a mailed response. Or e mail [email protected]