Grass Days / Piet Oudolf Home Garden at Hummelo
These pictures are from "Grass Days" on my first ever visit to the dream garden/ 'Kwekerij' of Piet and Anja Oudolf set near the village of Hummelo in the region of Gelderland in the eastern Netherlands.

Twice each fall, the Oudolfs open their gardens to the public for Grassendaggen or "Grass Days" The local Dutch citizenry come out in force for the event and to pick up perennials or specialist bulbs and hand-forged garden tools from local vendors at the Oudolf nursery out back. Why not? They're absolutely crazy mad for al things plants! Something we have in common.

September is an ideal time to visit the garden to experience the prairie grasses and late-flowering perennials in their full fall glory. Beyond that though, it's an opportunity to experience Oudolf's design aesthetic at perhaps its most personal – this garden is surely the crucible of his artistry. These shots represent only a fraction of what I saw: a garden of phantasmagorical beauty and sublime evocative power that presents shifting perspectives with each step you take. The weather that day was everchanging with gusts of rain and moments of quiet serenity.

Background: Dutch garden designer and nurseryman, author, photographer, Piet Oudolf is one of the leading figures of the new perennial movement which sets forth a more naturalistic approach to planting design. Drawn from an intense observation of how various kind of natural plant communities flourish in the wild, he seeks to evoke a heightened feeling of nature in his plantings, the most famous of which can be found in urban public spaces like NYC, London and Chicago.

It was a kind of pilgrimage that led me to his garden gate – to see and experience this place with my own eyes. I've previously visited a number of his gardens in North America – and on this same trip to Europe, I caught his Glasshouse Borders at the RHS Gardens at Wisley and Potter's Field by Tower Bridge in London.

At Hummelo, still bedazzled after my visit to his garden out front, I introduced myself to Mr. Oudolf, after spotting him behind a tall screen of miscanthus by the nursery. He looked me in the eye, warmly shook my hand and graciously invited me, a stranger from Canada, into the heart of the conversation. For me, it was simply too fascinating to discuss plant matters with the man whose books have helped to reignite my love of plants and design. A few minutes into the conversation, my girlfriend's tap on the shoulder told me it was time to take our ride and return to Deventer where we were staying. What a diamond of a day!

BTW: If any of this twigs your interest, I recommend any of his books co-authored with Noel Kingsbury, starting with Designing with Plants, a marvellous introduction to the wonders of four-season naturalistic planting.

POSTSCRIPT: Summer 2012. Stunned to learn that Piet removed all the iconic wave hedges at the garden (pictured here). Apparently, it got flooded last year and started to turn brown. I guess genius is fearless when it comes to change. The nursery is now also shuttered up for good as Anja has retired -- the former space now turned into another swath of garden with a kind of open meadow concept.

Summer 2012: The garden still opens periodically to visitors. Check www.oudolf.com for dates and times. See my upcoming set on the fabled Highline in nyc.
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