If you’ve toured the High Line’s gardens or those at Millennium Park in Chicago, you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the work of famed landscape designer Piet Oudolf. When you take a close look at his plant selection and placement, you’ll see it looks quite natural, the lines blur and most plants are attractive through the four seasons. This year-round inerest comes from selecting plants with great structure, form and color(s) such as grasses.
I have been creating something of the same in my own yard. I take what I love from my time in the woods, and try to replicate that feeling at home. Large stands of the same plants, grasses, and shrubs that easily take the garden from spring to the following spring dominate the landscape. There’s little if any annuals. There’s no hard borders or open spaces between plants or groups of plants, unless I’m waiting for the plants to fill in on their own. The garden is intermingled and I find it perfect for a busy person like myself.
The intermingled garden looks lush, all the time. I don’t worry about a fern or a verbena dying because there are plenty and each individual plant isn’t playing a key role in the design, they are working together and picking up the slack when others flounder.
The garden is incredibly easy to maintain. It was a lot to remove the sod, install the hardscape element and plant everything. Once the installation was complete, the garden was turned over to itself. There’s a big cut back late in the season, and that itself really isn’t necessary. I do it more to honor the more traditional neighborhood in which my non-traditional garden resides.
It’s ever changing. In a garden such as this, plants are encouraged to move, spread and sometimes one colony of plants will push out another. I tend to let it do what it likes, other gardeners of such spaces tighten the reins a bit on the more aggressive plants. Either way, this style of garden truly evolves year-to-year.
If I wanted my yard to look the same season-to-season, year-to-year, I’d have a lawn and some shrubs.