"Always on the lookout for new challenges."
In 2015, Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, who enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic, innovative expert in the field of plants was asked to take part in the design of an educational botanical garden in the American town of Dagsboro, located in the south of the state of Delaware. For Oudolf, who already has so many high-profile projects to his name, this represented a new challenge, which he approached with energy, ambition and his customary innovative spirit. Piet Oudolf enthuses, "I'm laying out a new botanical garden as part of a team. I'm responsible for part of it and I'm doing a large area of vegetation, which is what I specialise in. The construction of the whole garden, a project which will run from 2015 until 2025, is approximately 15 hectares, and I'm responsible for an area that's 6000m². It's located on a creek, part woodland, and part open field, and it's being redesigned as an educational botanical garden. It's more focused on the ecological aspect of gardens, as opposed to collections. There are 10 of us in the project team, including an architect and a landscape architect. The landscape architect is RAS - Robinson Anderson and Summers. The whole project is being organised by a foundation, the Delaware  Botanic Gardens and Pepper Creek."    


Oudolf continues, "I was asked to take part in 2015. All sorts of funds were available, and initiatives have already been taken to prepare one thing or another. The fields and the woodland all need to be cleared; we're still at a very early stage. The first garden will be opened in 2018. That's not the end of the project, of course, because the project continues until 2025. In fact, contrary to a building or even a piece of music, a garden is never finished. A garden continues to develop, continues to grow. It's an interesting project because the quality of your work is appreciated and safeguarded; that's important for the future. Insofar as that's concerned, it's perfect for me to do something about it through my profession. It's not an educational botanical garden that's going to contain innovative plants. It's more a contemporary vision of how to deal with gardens, parks and landscapes. There'll probably also be an information centre with an auditorium in the garden. The people who go there will receive education in that field. On the one hand it's an educational space, and on the other hand it's a colection of plants and show gardens, which is more focused on our time. This is a time in which the world around us and the environment are important, meaning that a lot of work is being done with native plants, including plants that are a bit stronger than annual or temporary plants."                     


Innovative garden designer: "I always feel challenged anew."
For Piet Oudolf, who has already designed many gardens, this project in America represents a new challenge. Oudolf admits, "I always feel challenged anew. I always feel like I need to go a step further, or to do something different. Of course you have your own signature, but you always do it in a way that is attractive, not only for you to go there yourself, but also for the public. If it were just for the public, I'd be able to copy what I do here in the Netherlands." Oudolf is clearly an innovator, but emphasises that it's a slow process. "If you hear a musical composition, it's often lovely to see and listen to at the same time, but it's difficult to explain exactly why the composition is any different. Music is different when you play it, and for the people who can read it, so to speak, but it's extremly difficult to explain it. With innovative music, you can say: we added some new elements. The same applies to gardens; sometimes, we add new elements too. In this project, we are focusing on native, North-American plants. Perennial plants and grasses." Piet Oudolf, who has been working on projects in America since 2000, has already gained some experience in this field, meaning he doesn't have to go the the library to research American plants. Oudolf explains, "The plants are also used in the Netherlands. You find the plants that grow in America in nurseries over here. These plants are sown and cultivated all over the world. I have been working in America for a number of years now and I'm really interested in this type of vegetation. Sometimes, I even know more about it than anyone else."


See also the Piet Oudolf article