New Year Perennial Field Report: People, Plants, Places

It’s the movement that never stops moving.

Stepping into 2018, the New Perennial movement in naturalistic planting design continues to creep, climb, bloom, and seed its way around the civilized world all the way from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to Canada, the U.S., South America, China, New Zealand, and beyond.

In every pocket, there’s a growing convergence of design, ecology, and architecture along with a deepening sense of what is possible and why it matters more than ever before (i.e. the lopsided battle to restore quality of life for all species on the home planet.) Continue reading

Allure of the Lurie: Piet Oudolf returns to Chicago

My first morning in Chicago, I found myself inside a giant silver bean.

Actually, it was a rare moment of solitude inside Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate on my way to see Piet Oudolf and his urban masterpiece, The Lurie Garden.

Not just any public garden, the Lurie is built atop a massive parking garage roof, transformed by architectural sleight-of-hand into a slice of incandescent prairie in the heart of the downtown’s Millennium Park. Continue reading

Meetings w/ Remarkable Plantsmen: Piet Oudolf & Roy Diblik

I’ve been doubly spoiled over the past month by inspiring encounters with exceptional plantsmen.

First up, I reconnected with über designer, Piet Oudolf in the form of a two-hour transatlantic Skype call to Hummelo, which turned into a one-on-one masterclass in planting design.

This was followed by a three-day visit from American plantsman, writer, and prairie whisperer Roy Diblik, who came up from Northwind Perennial Farm to speak to the Canadian chapter of the Garden Writers Association at our annual meeting here in Toronto.

I’ve learned to never quarrel with serendipity. Continue reading

Sleeping Beauties: In Search of Spring Ephemerals

It’s become a first rite of spring: after the eternity of a northern winter, I head to the woods to find the first sleeping beauties that awake from the forest floor.

To chance upon the powder-soft buds of purple liverworts (Hepatica nobilis) fluttering their long white lashes into flower; or to marvel at the tightly-wrapped cones of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) that unscroll their virgin-white blooms; or to wander through vast carpets of mottle-leafed trout lily (Erythronium americanum) with downward-cast yellow trumpets as poised as any orchid.

And then, there’s the familiar sight of trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) raising their white tricorn hats in unison to follow the arc of the sun across the sky.

It’s love at first sight—all over again. Continue reading

Autumn Requiem: Dawn of the Day of the Living Dead

Boo! It’s that time of year again when pagan festivals, monster horror films, and religious holidays all converge into an unholy clash.

From Hallowe’en to Night of the Living Dead to El Dia de Muerte, there’s something sweetly macabre about our autumnal obsession to summon forth the denizens of the spirit world and celebrate the enigma of life beyond the grave.

With all this morbidity sanctifying the air, it makes me wonder: What about our gardens? Do they really die each year? Or is it more like a form of reincarnation? Continue reading