I have always had a problem with the New Perennial Movement. It has always seemed like the ’emperor’s new clothes’. I never got it. It always seemed a bit lazy – large swathes of tall perennials in a naturalistic style where you couldn’t see anything properly. Maybe it was because I didn’t understand what I should be looking at. How I should be looking at it. That is until I went to see the Oudolf Field at Hauser and Wirth, Somerset.
I had been humming and haa-ing about driving the hour and quarter from Wiltshire, where we were glamping, for the whole of the long weekend. A friend had been a bit dismissive when she had been a few months earlier confirming my view that I didn’t like this style of planting. Could I really be bothered? It was so lovely in Puckshipton just doing nothing. Laying in the hammock looking up at the willows casting elegant silhouettes against the blue sky.
On our last morning I decided to go. Leaving the family behind to their own devices I set off across country taking the scenic route. If nothing else the drive was gorgeous. The sat nav deposited me in Bruton and the brown signs directed me to the gallery. My expectations were low.
It was the perfect day.
A gentle breeze, warm sunshine and blue sky. I walked through the gallery (Rashid Johnson) out into the Oudolf Field and my breath was taken away.
Grasses swaying gently, elegant Echinacea pallida “Hula Dancer’ doing just that, Helenium ‘Moorheim Beauty’ being beautiful. The unusual shaped beds leading you on. Not so big that plants disappeared but rather enhanced by the free-form shapes. This was planting as art. It brought tears to my eyes and a catch in my throat. How was this possible? How do people do this? The skill in making it all look so beautiful and easy is immense.
The 115 different species created a patchwork of beautiful herbaceous perennials. A lady I spoke to said it reminded her of the needle point she loved to create. I know what she meant. Apparently the garden contains over 26,000 plants. 26,000 of the most cleverly, subtly, artfully, dramatically placed plants I have ever seen.
It was hard to tear myself away. Every which way you turned was another gorgeous vista. Maybe this was the very day it looked its best. Somehow I think it has a few more months of looking lovely this year. If you are nearby, or even not, do go and see for yourself this wonderful piece of landscape. I think you will love it. I have been won over and definitely did.