Oudolf Nursery & Garden- Hummelo, The Netherlands

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Visits

One of the highlights of summer was my first trip to Europe, specifically to Piet & Anja Oudolf’s nursery and private garden in The Netherlands. I went for their Grass Days.

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Much like Fran Sorin (as she noted in her fabulous three part interview last month), I am a huge fan of Oudolf’s unique style. His gardens intrigue me and his design aesthetic influences my work. I’ve enjoyed all of his books. My close proximity to the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago provides seasonal opportunities to appreciate the development of one of his grand scale gardens and study plant combinations in person.

You might then imagine my excitement when the opportunity to travel to The Netherlands presented itself!

Due to the large number of photos I collected over the two days I visited the Oudolf’s garden I’ve divided them into Flickr slide-shows so readers will have an opportunity to ‘walk through’ the property in a somewhat logical fashion (Approach, Front Garden, Patio Garden, Studio, Trial Garden and Nursery). I’ll offer a brief commentary on each area. Additionally, I am including a link to a Google Maps satellite image of the Oudolf property (Broekstraat 17, Hummelo). It may prove useful to reference the image when viewing the slideshows.

Please note, I am not a professional photographer. These photos were taken primarily for my personal use.

APPROACH (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)

From Amsterdam, it took about 2 1/2 hours (via train, then a bus) to reach the Oudolf’s property. It is in a rural setting just outside the village of Hummelo. From satellite images, the main house appears to be centered on the property. It was not completely visible from the road, due to substantial straight clipped hedges of beech (Fagus sylvatica), English yew (Taxus baccata) and organic clipped hedges of beech, oak, Amelanchier, Cornus mas and Acer campestre. I walked through a gated entry and up a cobble drive to reach the main house and entrance. There was a lovely mixed border with ornamental trees, small shrubs and various perennials which flanked the drive (to the right) with hedging as a backdrop. In a couple of places there were breaks in the hedge to allow strategic glimpses into the front garden.

FRONT GARDEN (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)

I entered the front garden, near the house, through an opening in the hedge and onto a stone terrace where Stipa tennuissima volunteers were growing.

Immediately in front of the stone terrace was a large turf area surrounded with mixed borders. The turf was bisected by a diagonal walk which lead to a circular bed of Miscanthus. Two-thirds of the way down the walk, as I approached the Miscanthus focal point, my attention shifted to the entrance to a second garden room. At that moment, I was compelled to break from the walk and move toward the entrance.

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As a designer that was an impactful moment! I realized the garden I’d been dying to see was directly in front of me. I had just walked past it as I came up the drive. Oudolf masterfully created a sense of anticipation using of hedges to obscure views into the main garden (from the drive and the turf area), gaps in the hedges to allow glimpses in and focal points (like the bed of Miscanthus) to direct the eye until he was ready to reveal the garden.

I had seen many photos of this garden. However, I was not prepared for its impact in person (I even returned a second day to spend some time in the space, alone). The garden is a breathtaking testament to Oudolf’s artistic ability as well as his intimate knowledge of plants. Please enjoy the slide-show.

PATIO GARDEN (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)

Several grass filled beds softened an expansive brick patio which joined the main house and two outbuildings.

STUDIO (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)

Oudolf’s studio, a two year old contemporary brick structure, sits at the back of the property (it does not appear on the satellite image). It is separated from the nursery section by a relatively simple border including- Rhus typhina, Calamgrostis, Molinia, Spodiopogon, Angelica gigas and Sanguisorba. I took pause as I approached this area. I was struck by the obvious beauty and relative simplicity of the planting scheme as well as the borders effectiveness as a boundary and transition into a more contemporary space.

TRIAL GARDEN (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)

Behind the nursery and adjacent to the studio were what appeared to be trial beds. Assorted perennials were interspersed with grasses in narrow rows. I intend to experiment with a similar layout at my home in central Illinois.

I was taken with the Bush Clematis (C. heracleiaflora ‘China Purple’) in photos 2 and 3.

NURSERY (click on the photo below to open a Flickr slide-show)

Plant material was tastefully displayed in the nursery. It was laid out on the ground and created an almost garden-like setting. The space was very clean (free of benches, signage and usual display items/clutter found in typical US garden centers), which allowed the plants to shine. I loved Oudolf’s use of weeping willow-leaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) pruned into columns.

If you would like to see images of the hundreds of plants sold at the Oudolf’s nursery, follow the link to a Flickr slide-show (all images in the slide-show are courtesy Piet & Anja Oudolf).

On a personal note, I introduced myself to Piet after I had toured the property. He was incredibly open and generous with his time: going so far as to step away from his guests and give me a tour of his studio, where he graciously entertained all my questions, shared some of his current projects and recommended a few other gardens to visit.

In a year with several professional highs, my visit to the Oudolf’s garden and conversation with Piet top the list. Quite honestly, I haven’t fully processed the entire experience. I know that I have been greatly impacted by it. I feel a heightened sense of responsibility (to myself) to find my niche, perfect my craft and enjoy the process. It appears Piet has done just that!

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff has practiced garden design since 1995. He trained as a Botanist at Eastern Illinois University. Woodruff attributes his unique design aesthetic, naturalism with a twist, to early college exposures to a diverse range of plants and environments (collecting trips in local prairies, field excursions to bogs in Canada and treks through forests of the Northeast). He also maintained the campus greenhouse, where he fell in love with tropicals. In recent years, influences on his designs include travels abroad to Europe, Asia and the Yucatan peninsula as well as observation of the work of great plantsmen such as Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik. Woodruff’s designs often combine grasses, prairie natives and perennials with lush tropical foliage and seasonal blooms. This harmonious blending of plant material that is not conventionally grouped together is the ‘twist’ that makes his style unique.
Adam Woodruff

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Susan aka Miss R November 3, 2009, 7:40 am

Oh you have made my morning. Oudolf’s garden is high on my must visit wish list and has been since I first saw a photograph of it more than ten years ago.

From what I’ve seen (now much more) I often think it has the perfect balance visual between abandon and control–two very difficult things to juxtapose well in any landscape.

Thank you for so many images. Inspiring!

Hi Susan. Thanks for your comments and observations. I am glad you enjoyed the post and images. I highly recommend visiting the Oudolf’s garden. It is a very special place!

AW

healingmagichands November 3, 2009, 2:04 pm

I am so envious of your opportunity to see this wonderful garden. I really enjoyed your photographs and your descriptions. Thanks for sharing with us — it is always a good thing to have something to dream about.

Glad you enjoyed the post! I am very happy to have this forum to share my photos and experience with our readers.

Adam

Tony Spencer November 3, 2009, 4:15 pm

Talk about synchronicity.

I was also in Hummelo this year on my own pilgrimage to Grassendaggen and loved reading your most informed account of the experience – and you really documented it well.

I stayed in the incredibly charming town of Deventer around 20 miles north to get a feeling for the locale over the weekend.

I agree that nothing quite prepares you for the transcendant reality of his garden—to me, it was a state of pure euphoria, even when it rained (and it really came down).

Visiting from Toronto (where we have an Oudolf section in our Botanical Gardens), I also introduced myself to Piet and he was impeccably gracious and interested—inviting me into to a conversation revolving around nuances of planting design. Thrilling beyond belief for me.

If you’re curious, here’s the same day, different set of eyes, I’ve also posted a set on Flickr—albeit shorter and focused purely on the garden.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/43560604@N03/sets/72157622643723868/

Power to you and your work and words!

Tony.

It’s great to hear you visited the Oudolf’s garden. It sounds like we had a similar experience. You very eloquently describe the garden in your Flickr slide-show “an opportunity to experience Oudolf’s design aesthetic at perhaps its most personal – this garden is surely the crucible of his artistry”. I am anxious to see the High Line in New York City as well as his other major gardens in Europe.

Thank you for sharing your experience and great photos!

AW

Pam/Digging November 4, 2009, 12:29 am

Thank you for sharing your visit, Adam. Your pictures of Piet’s amazing garden made me feel almost as if I were there. I long to see it in person one day.

Pam. So glad you enjoyed the tour! I HIGHLY recommend a walk through in person.

Adam

Tony Spencer November 4, 2009, 10:59 am

Thanks for your kind comments. Funny because I found your blog via a wayward search for Sporobolus —which as you know, is used everywhere in Piet’s garden to magical effect. I actually picked some up last week to plant in my home northern garden and your article is filled with good advice.

On my same trip before the Netherlands, I also visited RHS Wisley to see Piet’s Glass House Borders—which are epic and astonishing. The core design motif is the stuff of genius. I also went to Potter’s Field right in London by the Tower Bridge and that was interesting on a smaller scale.

But my ultimate is Hummelo, truly, madly, deeply!

Glad you found us through the Plant Pick of The Month column.

Sounds like a great trip Tony! As we were heading to Germany, Piet recommended Hermannshof in Weinheim. Unfortunately, our schedule did not allow for a visit. I hope to return to Europe next summer.

Adam

PS. December’s Plant Pick of The Month is Moor Grass (Sesleria). Stay tuned!

Heirloom Gardener November 4, 2009, 10:42 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your visit!

You are very welcome!

AW

Chookie November 6, 2009, 7:02 am

I haven’t processed your visit either — your photos have captured so much, and it’s overwhelming in the slide shows! Fascinating to see the use of colour as well as form — hadn’t quite grasped that before, but some of your photos show balanced repetitions of pink. Thank you so much for sharing your photos with us!

I had a difficult time paring down the photos so I chose to share all of them with our readers.

AW

Country Mouse November 24, 2009, 12:44 am

I’m flabbergasted. I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It’s odd but though I’ve no confidence in my aptitude for garden design, I somehow feel like I can try anything now. (Ah! euphoria is great!) Thanks so much – what a trip!

Country Mouse. Thanks for your comments! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and photos.

AW

Bill Healy January 13, 2010, 8:24 pm

Adam,
I thankfully stumbled upon this website while looking up posts of Piet Oudoulf – wonderful site! – thanks so much for this sharing – I may never get to Europe, so your description through pictures and words of Piet’s gardens and nursery was very fresh and most appreciated.
Bill

Hi Bill. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. My visit to the Oudolf’s garden was extremely inspiring!

AW

debra herdman April 21, 2010, 1:26 pm

Dear Sir,
I’ve been planning a trip to the Netherlands this fall and, as I was doing some internet searching for Piet Oudolf’s garden, I found your beautiful photos and comments. Would it be possible to share the names of the other gardens that he suggested you might visit? Thank you for bringing so much beauty to my day.