While sat in Louise Wells’s beautiful garden one balmy, summer evening in July, she recommended the garden at Hauser and Wirth’s Gallery in Bruton, Somerset. Why? She had just visited the 1.5 acre prairie garden/perennial meadow designed by Piet Oudulf, the internationally-renowned landscape designer from the Netherlands.
Louise is an accomplished plants-person and it therefore came highly recommended, as what she doesn’t know about plants isn’t worth knowing!
We, Heidi and I, finally found time to visit in mid-September one Friday morning and after battling with the traffic on the A303, we finally arrived just before lunch. We had hoped to visit the garden and gallery, but unfortunately the latter was closed for the day while they were updating the display. Oh well, we’ll just have to come back in the future!
Before taking in the gardens, we decided to stop for some lunch in Roth Bar & Grill – www.rothbarandgrill.co.uk. I have to say, it was worth the 1.5hrs in the car just for lunch; wonderful, fresh cooked food served in a charming restaurant.
Once fed and watered, we then turned our attention to the gardens and wow, we weren’t disappointed! Even though they had passed their best and looking at the planting schemes, I’d say July and August are the best months to visit.
We strode in and were overwhelmed by the scale and artistry of the planting; flowing drifts of purples, pinks, blues, whites and a sea of gold. The scheme is relaxed yet flows with a symmetry through the sweeping beds which mirror the shape of the Radic pavilion at the end of the site. Truly a site to behold. Garden design executed with style and simplicity, yet with a hidden detail – a masterpiece.
In summary, Oudulf Field is a large, perennial meadow that sits behind the gallery. Carefully shaped and planted, the garden echoes the tradition of classical gardens, but the variety of species and combination of plants creates a looseness, softening the overall formality of its appearance.
What makes it doubly special is the conditions of its birth. If ever there were a difficult year to create a garden from nothing more than a bare field surrounded by hedges, it was 2014. Months of relentless rain in the wettest winter on record reduced the soil to a quagmire, followed by weeks of drought, just when the 26,000 plants grown at Orchard Dene Nursery in Oxfordshire were getting established. But, despite all this – and thanks also to the glorious, late summer and the hard work of Petherick, Urquhart & Hunt, the landscapers, as well as Mark Dumbleton, Durslade’s head gardener – the team pulled off one of the most exciting new gardens in the country.
Wide canopied trees have been planted between the gallery and garden to frame the view. The surrounding hedges provide a sense of enclosure, whilst the views of the hills and fields beyond remain visible. We stood along the north west boundary and looked east, taking in the rolling hills beyond, which cleverly added height to the gardens without having to add any real height to the planting scheme.
A series of paths cut through the borders, like a hot knife through butter, inviting visitors to wander through the garden. Piet’s design continues across the whole site too, enticing the visitor into the inner cloister courtyard where the buildings, old and new meet.
I have to say, as a garden designer, anyone who decides to visit, will be inspired. I have come away with more ideas for prairie planting, perennial schemes, improved use of grasses and inspiration to fuel my future garden designs for years to come.
Relaxed, refreshed and inspired, we headed back towards the A303...