the hedge as masterpiece, by master piet oudolf

MY GARDENING LIFE STARTED with a hedge—cutting one back hard, specifically. It was the threadbare, tall old privet surrounding my childhood home, and I was determined to “rejuvenate” it, after reading about the process in a book. No artful hedge has ever been created by my hands, though—a fact that feels all the more lamentable after watching Sean Conway’s video tour (above) of designer and nurseryman Piet Oudolf’s garden in the Netherlands. What magic.

Eager for more, I visited Oudolf’s own site, with its slideshow-style homepage…then dug around deeper, uncovering photos of natural places that inspire him, and rich image galleries of the influential plantsman’s work by noted photographers.

Who knew that a “trip” to Holland would prove a highly recommended virtual escape from winter?

  • More from Sean Conway, longtime Target spokesperson, can be found on his Cultivating Life site, the companion to his television program.
  • Piet Oudolf’s Flickr photostream, including many shots of his garden.
  1. Jayme says:

    I absolutely adore Piet Oudolf…now I know how to pronounce his last name. I was surprised to see all the hedges in his garden because I’ve always thought of him as the grass man. But it makes sense. You need structure to compliment all those natural forms. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Jayme. I thought exactly the same thing: perennials, grasses, big sweeps of texture. But these hedges kind of evoke the traditional formality of Dutch gardens as a contrast, and I love them. I can’t believe I had never been to his website — what great images are there. See you soon again.

  2. Johanna says:

    I agree about the quote. And oh to see all those spring plants emerging from the dirt. I know we’re supposed to be relaxing and planning and building strength for the summer ahead, but oh, spring!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Oudolf a few years ago when I went to the U.K. for a study course with Penelope Hobhouse. He is such a nice man. We walked gardens as a group and he patiently answered any/all questions and even sat with one lady and helped her figure out her camera.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Rebecca; wow, what a nice place to visit *that* site is. Thank you. The colors, especially, felt so luxurious on this all-white snow day here. Nice. See you soon, yes?

  4. Heidi says:

    Thanks so much for all the links. He is one of my all time favorites. Which is especially hard when you live on the woods. But we bought a field a few years ago so a girl can dream. (Now if the deer would just cooperate. See what I mean about dreaming.) But I love his work, your work and spending the winter in all these amazing gardens. Thank you for all you do Margaret and have a Happy New Year.

  5. Nora says:

    Thanks soooo much for the link. I LOVE Piet Oudolf! I heard him speak at the Perennial Plant conference in October, and actually started crying–it was like listening to great music, only visual! What an artist–and afterwards speaking with him at some length. What a NICE man. And what a great artist.

  6. Debbie says:

    You mentioned a video of his gardens…what is the video title and where can I find it? Any other suggestions for finding good garden themed videos?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Fran, and thank you for the link to the interview. Lucky you! (And lucky me now, having read the first part and heading for the next…) Nice to see you here and hope to again soon.

  7. nancy nichols says:

    Hi Margaret – Clicked on the blue arrow and nothing played. Clicked on the link and message “don’t have permission to watch private video” appeared. Would love to view if you can refresh it somehow. This snow day is a perfect day to spend on your site and I’m taking full advantage of the opportunity. Thank you. Nancy

  8. DebbieCZ says:

    Thanks for the video prompt – I couldn’t see the tree for the forest – I was thinking a full-length DVD. Does anyone have suggestions on DVD’s that are apprx 40-60 min long. Subject matter could be almost anything – landscape designs, plant information, gardening projects, etc. I belong to a garden group and occassionally our scheduled garden speakers cancel at the last minute. It would be nice to pull out a DVD at the last second.
    Or – any good recommendations for garden speakers in the norther IL/Chicago/S Wisconsin area?

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, DebbieCZ. I wonder if perhaps the archives of public television (BBC, PBS, or a large “local” station like WGBH in Boston, which I think made the original “Victory Garden” shows) might yield such videos. I’d start in the library catalog or with (hate to say it) an Amazon search. Better yet, the Chicago Botanic Garden is certain to have recommendations. I can’t say I have watched many garden videos myself, truth be told! CBG may also have a speaker list from its staff experts.

  9. DebbieCZ says:

    Thank you Margaret – I’ll try WGBH (having grown up in Mass I should have thought of them). BBC had a few and unfortunately the Chicago Botanic Garden is not updating their current VHS library with new DVD’s. CBG is only miles away from me and they are a wonderful resource. Their speaker list tends to be in the upper reaches of our budget so we can only afford 1 or 2 a year. Speaker fees tend to run apprx. $100-$145 for a 45 min presentation. This gig seems like it would be a golden opportunity for garden guru’s to make some garden habit-sustaining money!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Tony. Yes, they seem to have taken it out of circulation recently — and even removed it from the site of the TV show it came from, of all nutty things! So sorry. I searched everywhere for a way to access it again, but as I say – it’s even missing from their own website. Sounds like you know how beautiful the place is.

  10. Tony says:

    Thx for clarifying — I was beginning to doubt my search skills!

    You’re right though — I had a full-blown apotheosis in my visit to Hummelo that’s stayed with me ever since and deepened my appreciation of his work.

    Through my travels, I came across the video of a Brit landscaper named Guy who spent a few months working at Hummelo as an RHS student. We’ve been in contact and his film is actually quite special, capturing yet more of the koan-like wisdom of Mr. Oudolf and giving lovely glimpses of his everchanging garden.

    If you haven’t seen it, have a look:

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