Wild-ish at Heart: Naturalistic planting design

It’s about setting aside our desire for control to instead work in partnership with nature. This is essentially the guiding principle behind the naturalistic garden, a plant-driven approach to landscape design that has been around in one form or another since Englishman William Robinson first published his first edition of The Wild Garden in 1870.

But now with signature projects like the High Line in New York City and Chicago’s Lurie Garden, a growing global movement in planting design has found a bolder, modernist expression of this ideal with a collective dream to re-wild our nature-deprived urban worlds. 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

Designing with Remarkable Plantsmen: Piet Oudolf & Roy Diblik

Over the past six months, I’ve been utterly absorbed in the making of a woodland garden on the edge of our one-acre pond in the rolling hills of Mono, Ontario.

Early in the process, I was doubly fortunate to get advice on my plans from two maestros of modern planting design, Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik.

My last post on this topic introduced them as plantsmen and people. This time, it’s about the design process and how they helped push my ideas forward with some stellar advice and insights. 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