Gardens Illustrated November 2007 Posted on November 3, 2007

Where do you stand on grasses? I mean the ones you don’t stand on, the pale fans and waving feathers of the border. If they were a political party they might not yet be forming a government, but they would be shaping up for a coalition. My vote was undecided for a long time, but I’m

beginning to be swayed.

It started at Wisley, where the old grass collection, on the way to the restaurant, always seemed out of place. It was grass for grass’ sake, a pattern sheet of height and textures and colour-ways. Then came Piet Oudolf’s vast new borders overlooking the new glasshouse. Grasses are the vital element in his bravura herbaceous palette. All the earth and fire colours of summer into autumn are there in broad brush-strokes and knife-smears.

Fauve master does wildflower meadow.

What happens when the two revolutionary parties of our gardening

age converge?

The Wirtz family in Belgium, renowned for their sculptural approach to evergreens, have been leading the hedge party for decades, infiltrating our

consciousness until hedges and gardens

are almost as synonymous as garden

and topiary were to the ancients. Mark my words, the hedge and grass garden

is almost upon us.

There is a feint in that direction just down

the road here in Essex, at Marks Hall, in the splendid walled garden attached to the very considerable arboretum. Brita von Schoenaich, the designer, has used grasses as formally as anyone can in a pattern of hedges and deliberate rounded

shapes to create an entirely novel effect. It certainly gets my vote.

 

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