A Living Symphony
By the Engel & Völkers Team
Piet Oudolf composes internationally acclaimed symphonies. His instruments? Prairie lilies, meadow rue, moor grass and peonies. When it comes to the art of horticulture, Oudolf is often recognized as second to none in the realm of arranging gardens. From orchestrating installations for the Biennale in Venice and Leuvehoofd Park in Rotterdam, to creating more personal, private gardens in the Netherlands (his home country) and Nantucket Island, Oudolf is a master at harmonizing perennials and shrubbery to create dynamic “living pictures.”
New Yorkers have probably come into contact with his work via the city’s ever-popular High Line and Battery Park gardens, which he designed in 2006 and 2003, respectively. Tourists and locals of the Windy City are likely familiar with Oudolf’s garden in Chicago’s iconic Millennium Park, and all visitors to Toronto’s Botanical Garden in Canada have walked through his horticultural masterpiece via the Garden’s entrance walkway.
At 73 years old, Oudolf has gained worldwide recognition for his captivating gardens since the mid-90s, the tipping point being his work at the Drömparken where he combined over 200 different plant species in the center of Sweden’s Enköping. His signature naturalist gardens are characterized by combining a variety of wild perennials, annuals, trees, grasses, hedges and shrubs, establishing interesting relationships, patterns and repetitions amongst them and forming truly unique arrangements. Oudolf says, “I combine plants that feel comfortable with one another,” to describe it best, which also means incorporating plants that have never been used in gardens before. Co-founder of what’s come to be known as the Dutch Wave, a movement that aims to give plants and their aesthetics center stage, Oudolf believes it’s not the color of a plant that makes up its criterion but its structure.
More than his private commissions, Oudolf is most proud of his public gardens such as the High Line and his section in New York’s Battery Park because of their incredible reach to a wide audience. Positive feedback from visitors who are able to witness his creations firsthand reassures him and strikes an indescribable chord with Oudolf: “People have a great need for nature. The fact that they like my work makes me very happy.” Well-known to be a very quiet, thoughtful and patient man, Oudolf remarks, “I don’t try to change the world, I just do my best to add to the world of horticulture.”
Read the full story in GG Magazine’s latest issue or online here.