Weil am Rhein, Germany
“I want people to lose themselves in the garden,” states Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf A new garden is taking shape in front of the VitraHaus, on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein.
It was planned by Piet Oudolf, whose spontaneous and wild-looking compositions of perennials and grasses have won him commissions all over the world, including the landscaping of the High Line park in New York.
The site chosen for the garden incorporates two sculptural interventions called Ring and Ruisseau, which were designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec in 2018.
The garden was planted in the spring of 2020 and the use of perennial plants that mature quickly means it is already established enough to welcome visitors.
Oudolf’s idea was to create a constantly changing “wilderness” and open up new perspectives on the surrounding architecture of the Vitra Campus.
“We won’t have to wait that long. Although it’s a so-called ‘Perennial Garden’ – a garden that comes back year after year – we’re using plants that grow and mature quickly. If we plant it now and the weather cooperates, the garden will already look good in September,” comments Oudolf.
“I had numerous discussions with Rolf Fehlbaum and others at Vitra to give them an understanding of various design aspects that typify my work.”
“We agreed that we wanted to create three or four different planted zones, each offering a distinct sensual experience. I also want people to lose themselves in the garden instead of just passing through it.”
“That’s why I developed a system of small paths, without straight lines or a focal point at the end.”
“You go around the corner, see a different perspective and can make a decision. Do you go to the right or to the left?”
“Wilderness is often glorified into a highly romanticized ideal. I try to turn these fantasies into reality. But my gardens are actually not wild at all. On the plans, you can see exactly where I have put every single plant.
Everything is precisely composed.”
‘We don’t need too many built structures because it’s all about the plants. They are the centre of attention.”
“In Weil am Rhein, we’re using around 30,000. But these are not wild plants, like the ones promoted by the advocates of wild gardening back in the 1960s.”
“Those were too wild and competitive. In the end, you were left with two or three plants that took over the garden and you couldn’t get rid of them.”
“More than 30 years ago, a small group of people, including my wife and myself and our friend Henk Gerritsen, instead started to introduce plants that were underappreciated or had never been viewed as garden plants.”
“Grasses, for example, that we knew from the meadows, but which no one put in their gardens before the 1980s. They look wild, but know how to behave.”
“Each plant has its particular strengths and its place in the garden, but shouldn’t restrict the others too much.”
“Otherwise the balance in a garden will be disturbed. It’s very important that the different plants work well together.”
“Like in a community, or an ensemble of stage players. You can put them together in different roles.”
“Each one ‘performs’ in its own way, but in the end an interesting play needs to emerge from it.”
“Perhaps I see more in plants than others do. When I look at them, I recognise characters with a kind of soul, independent personalities with a unique appearance and behaviour.”
“I make use of these distinctions and put them together in specific compositions.”
“For example, to provide a sensual experience in the garden all year round, I always try to find a balance between plants that are flowering and those that might be reduced to a seed head or skeleton.”
“I see the garden here neither as a contrast to the architecture nor as something that panders to the surroundings or vice versa.”
“It is complementary in every respect. It is important to me to use the plants to draw attention from the open sky down to the ground, and thus to open up new perspectives – including on the surrounding buildings.”
The garden will be opened in full bloom in summer 2021.
Project: Oudolf Garten at Vitra Campus
Landscape Architects: Piet Oudolf
Client: Vitra GmbH
Photographers: Dejan Jovanovic