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Five of the Best: Oudolf gardens

Piet Oudolf has changed the way we think about gardens.

His planting designs of perennials and grasses are romantic, exciting, enriching and inspiring. These are some of our favourites.

Words: Sandra Ross


Trees for trains on New York's Highline. Photo - ON-Photography Germany/


The High Line

The ‘brave’ decision taken a decade ago to turn a disused, elevated freight line in the centre of New York City into a public park has been massively vindicated with more than 7 million visits a year. The High Line is now 1.45-miles of garden, with more than 500 species of plants. Its success has been due to the inspired planting design by Piet Oudolf, whose rich mix has created a dynamic landscape that draws people in and rewards their attention.


New York's Highline. Photo - elisank79/


Trentham Estate, England

The renewal of Trentham, a vast garden at Stoke-on-Trent, England, built in the 18th century by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, is due to the collaboration between Piet Oudolf and English designer Tom Stuart Smith. Stuart Smith has replaced the stiff Italianate garden of the Victorian era with naturalistic planting in the Oudolf style, while Piet’s contributions include a huge, informal, immersive garden of perennials known as the Floral Labyrinth.



This garden in Enkoping, Sweden, is planted with Oudolf’s favourite plants, his ‘dream seedlings’. In one section the plants are planted into a series of blocks. The contrasting density and texture of each block makes a giant tapestry of colour and texture. Elsewhere, a salvia ‘river’ flows in a mass of blue and purpletoward the river that forms the outer edge of the park. The park’sexciting mix of wilderness and cultivation goes to the heart of this man’s genius.


Hauser & Wirth Gallery

The much-celebrated Oudolf Field is a perennial meadow at Hauser & Wirth Art Gallery on the outskirts of Bruton, Somerset. It’s laid out in 17 curving, interlocking garden beds divided by a broad, gravelled pathway. Originally, the Field really was a field – a plain, long, uncultivated rectangle, sloping up and away from a handsome collection of stone farm buildings. Oudolf has used the field like a huge, flat canvas, painted in great swoops of perennial plants, with no intervening trees or shrubs.


Photo - Lois GoBe/



You will find Vlinderhof or Butterfly Garden, inside Utrecht’s Maximapark in The Netherlands.

In 2013, residents of the area asked Piet Oudolf to design a garden within the city park that would be planted and maintained by volunteers. More than 15,000 plants of 97 different varieties attract butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects. It’s a cornucopia of colour, form and texture from late summer to autumn and into winter when seed heads and spent stems glisten with frost.


Photo - Wiert nieuman/


Come with us


The Highline, Trentham, Dreampark and Vlinderhof all feature on Ross Garden Tours itineraries from 2020-2022. Call 1300 233 200 for details.

About this article

Author: Sandra Ross