Sep 192014
 
Piet Oudolf's garden at the Hauser + Wirth Gallery, Somerset

Bruton, Somerset

Much excitement has been surrounding Piet Oudolf’s new garden at the new Hauser + Wirth Gallery in Somerset. I was one of the people who was excited about it, so I was very pleased to get the chance to visit.

The gallery and restaurant is extremely swanky – some challenging art, neon lights spelling ‘Everything Will Be OK’ on one of the building walls, throbbing music in the exceedingly cool bar area and lots of trendy people. It’s what you’d expect to find in a capital city, which isn’t surprising as the other Hauser + Wirth galleries are in New York, London and Zurich. To be honest, it made me feel a bit uneasy – it just didn’t seem to sit comfortably in deepest Somerset.

As for the garden, there are some beautiful planting combinations (my favourite is below), and quite a few plants that I didn’t recognise, which is always interesting. The place was positively buzzing with bees and butterflies.

Piet Oudolf field, Hauser + Wirth Gallery, Bruton, Somerset
Interestingly, the non-gardeners in our group didn’t ‘get’ the garden at all. I tried to explain the naturalistic style, the planting in drifts, the fact that it’s all very new and will take a while to establish. But they still didn’t get it, or even like it very much. And I must admit it didn’t quite do it for me, either. Maybe it was the simple fact that the garden isn’t established – the perennials are dominating at the moment, and the grasses need to mature to give more structure. Or maybe it was the clock sculpture, which dominates somewhat (and ticks annoyingly). Maybe it was the bright green grass paths which look a bit odd, the lack of structure, or the lack of a sense of enclosure. I’ve been wowed by Piet Oudolf’s planting in the past, especially at Pensthorpe a few years ago, but this time I was surprised to find myself thinking that I’ve seen it all before.

Piet Oudolf field, Hauser + Wirth Gallery, Bruton, Somerset

  10 Responses to “Piet Oudolf’s field”

  1. thank you for the beautiful pictures of the Piet Oudolf garden. We went to the gallery just before the official garden opening and enjoyed the long view from the buildings but we couldn’t walk amongst the plants. I thought the long view was beautiful in its infancy and agree it will improve with keeping.
    This is my first view of an Oudolf garden in person so perhaps I was more impressed , but I really like the colour swathes of perennials. It’s going to be one to watch as the grasses assert themselves more. I agree about the gallery- seems a bit oddly sited in Somerset!

    • Hi Judith
      I forgot to mention in my blog post that it does look good when viewed from the gallery – and it would definitely make you want to get closer to it. I hope you get to explore it properly some day, or visit one of his other gardens.

  2. I agree, it doesn’t seem to sit quite comfortably in rural Somerset, but I suppose we have to be challenged by new ideas! I know I refer countryside to look like natural countryside, but then again, much of what we think of as natural was been sculpted either by landscape designers of the past, by clearing woodland for agriculture by farmers, creating wetlands as in the Norfolk broads, so therefore, unless a mountain side (which would be impossible to cultivate) much of what we see isn’t natural at all?

  3. I had read about this in the press – good to have a blog report.

  4. Hi Veronica

    I visited yesterday, and I agree with your observations. I found it easy to get lovely photos by focussing in on part of the planting, highlighting combinations of texture and colour. But the overall effect of the garden left me a bit cold. I think this sort of planting needs formal elements or structure as a foil. The amorphous curved paths didn’t cut it for me. And I prefer gardens where you move through different spaces rather than seeing the whole thing virtually in one go. I felt that Piet’s ‘garden’ lacked a sense of ‘story’ as you moved through it. Perhaps the ‘story’ is one told in time rather than by passing through a series of spaces, as the perennials and grasses develop and spread themselves around over the year(s)?

    • Will, I could not have put this better myself. You have expressed exactly what I was trying to say. I think you’ve put your nail on the head when you say there is no ‘story’. And it was very difficult to take photos of!

  5. As the ‘non gardener’ in our group I did find the garden a bit flat and ‘samey’ but I could also see that after walking around it it really started to grow on me (no pun attended). I was told that it was early days and that given time the whole garden would mature in height, size etc. So I would definitely like to revisit in a year or two.
    I also thought the connection with the gallery was interesting and was intrigued as to how the space under the Kentucky Coffee Trees would be used/work. Even the big clock grew on me over time (pun attended).
    All in all a really interesting place and a intriguing garden – also great coffee!

    TB

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