Friday, September 21, 2007

Speaking of Gardens

Thanks to the inspiration from that gorgeous garden Freshly Found featured, I've been thinking about gardens and I thought I'd sure some of my favorite landscape designers with you. He's not actually from anywhere in southern Africa, but what the hey.

His name is Piet Oudolf, and his landscapes are filled with grasses and other rather unusual plants. I have read about him here and there (his house is just to die for) and more recently on the House and Garden website. This is a slideshow of a house in England where the owners decided to add a twist to the usual English country garden.

Oudolf is actually Dutch (so distantly related to some South Africans :) and originally studied architecture. He was instrumental in starting New Wave planting, which uses grasses as an almost architectural feature in a garden, but also almost as a swash of paint in a painting (as you see above). I think that's why I like his work, he uses his knowledge from all areas of design in his craft, and it just looks gorgeous.

Of course I can't go to all this trouble without mentioning some lovely garden in southern Africa, so I'll share a little something I recently came across. There is a secret garden in my home town of Johannesburg that I didn't even know existed. It's 45 acres in the middle of the city that most people don't even know is there... it's owned by the Oppenheimer family, and they employ 45 gardeners to keep in looking wonderful. The head gardener is from Kirstenbosch (one of my favourite places) and only uses natural gardening methods, so he's okay in my book.

Strilli Oppenheimer seems to be the person behind the gardens, and has other gardens in England, for which she has a website. On it she says, this:
"I am a gardener of place, who seeks to work with the nature of the place, adapting and evolving the planting to its ecology rather than producing a decorated garden. Natural gardening is all about your relationship with the garden, and its evolution, using your knowledge of plant systems and families. We are staunch believers in all aspects of organic husbandry and in the holistic management of the estate. We seek to combine forces with nature, rather than fight against it, and to explore the boundaries between garden and nature. In doing so, we have created a haven to an abundance of insect and animal life, fungi and indigenous flora. This is our legacy, our investment in the future."

I couldn't agree more. One of the major reasons that I'm sorry I haven't visited this garden before is because it has an indigenous grass garden (you may perhaps be picking up a pattern ;). I think something like this is huge in SA because we are a country with so few water resources... here's what the article said about that:

"Then a garden containing a bright green circle of grass, around which indigenous grasses grow profusely, which, says Klopper [the head gardner], is "always unpredictable" as "one year one species of bulbs appear, then isn't seen again for a number of years, and then another one appears the following year, depending on conditions like quantity of rain". This garden also relies entirely on rain water."

I just wish there was a picture.

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