How exciting to hear that there was a major new contemporary garden designed by Piet Oudolf opening in Somerset in September 2014 around the Hauser and Wirth Gallery. www.hauserwirthsomerset.com/garden Luckily, I had plans to attend a couple of workshops run by Thornhayes Nursery in Devon at the end of September so could visit on my way down there, shortly after it had opened.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset is a pioneering world-class gallery and multi-purpose arts centre, which acts as a destination for experiencing art, architecture and the Somerset landscape through new and innovative exhibitions of contemporary art. (So say H & W!) And I have to say it is a remarkable place and well worth a visit. Beautiful grade II listed farm buildings which had fallen into disrepair have been converted into various stylish galleries and public spaces, bar and restaurant and surrounded by gardens designed by Piet Oudolf. I loved the whole concept, which was that the buildings, garden and exhibition spaces expressed the spirit of the old farm. Agricultural drinking troughs were used as containers for perennials around the restaurant and metal sheep feeding troughs found new life as a sink in the ladies loo!
Oudolf’s Field lies at the back of the complex and blends with the surrounding Somerset countryside beautifully. It covers 1.5 acres and is billed as a perennial meadow.
As you can see when I first emerged from the gallery this is the effect given by the dense planting. Once I began to explore, however, I discovered that the planting is divided into interlocking borders with gravel paths between. I felt as though I was disappearing into the tall, airy planting; a lovely feeling of seclusion. A shallow pond references the dew ponds that would probably have been created to water the livestock on the farm in the past.There are around 26,000 herbaceous perennials of over 100 varieties and my camera was snapping away capturing the best of Pete’s tasty and tasteful plant combinations. A fascinating exhibition of Piet Oudolf’s planting plans was running in one of the galleries. I think all garden designers love to see how other designers present their plans particularly for gardens that they have seen, so that was a real opportunity to gain insight into how Piet puts his schemes together. I am glad to see he is a pen, paper and drawing board man!
I was lucky enough to encounter the Head Gardener whilst I was strolling around and had a chat about what it is like to look after a garden like this. Within 2 or 3 years he will be digging up, dividing and replanting three quarters of the perennials. They were planted densely for instant effect so will soon become congested and need thinning out. That will be quite a task! Within the gallery is a more intimate cloister garden planted with Deschampsia ‘Goldtau’, Molinia ‘Moorhexe’ and Seslaria autumnalis woven through with Baptisia and Astrantia ‘Venice’
It is free to visit the gallery and garden which is open again from the 12th of January 2015. I plan to follow it through the year to see how the planting looks in each season. Hundreds of bulbs were going in for spring, and if you look at photos on the website now you will see how well the borders look in winter. This garden is a real inspiration for anyone who enjoys contemporary and informal planting.