Naturalistic garden design has its roots back to the 19th century, and has since developed in various directions. The most known, and undoubtedly most popular, is the one often referred to as "the New Perennial movement". The renowned Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf is considered to be the originator of this movement. Among others, he has designed the garden that surrounds the High Line in New York, Lurie Park in Chicago and the "Open field" associated with the gallery Hauser & Wirth in Somerset.
"My biggest inspiration is nature;
I do not want to copy it,
but to recreate the emotion"
The quote above embraces the essence of what naturalistic gardens seek to achieve: To recreate the same feeling that one can sometimes experience in nature: A distinctive harmony, which gives a deep resonance in our own nature.
Naturalistic gardens have qualities that touch both aesthetically and emotionally. Surrounding yourself with such a garden, and following the development through the four seasons is really a great joy. In recent years, Piet Oudolf has prioritised to design public gardens, so that as many people as possible have the opportunity to see and experience them.
As mentioned, imitation of nature is central, and meadows and prairie landscapes are the most used models. Common denominators are the extensive use of (ornamental) grass and plants / flowers that are similar to the flora we find in nature, both in terms of shape and structure of foliage and flowers. The placement of plants is also inspired by nature; you plant densely and let the plants weave into each other.
It is important to ensure a balance in the complex mix of plant species, so that the eye finds rest and you achieve the harmony you are looking for. Although naturalistic plantings may seem random, they are carefully designed. One usually plant in groups or in a more advanced "matrix", and use different design principles to create variety and coherence.
Plants with a structure that lasts, even after flowering is over, are essential. Seedheads and ornamental grasses make the gardens a beautiful sight during also during winter. Nothing is cut down until towards the beginning of Spring.
Which surroundings fit these plantings?
This garden style fits into most surroundings. As a smooth transition to the surrounding nature or as an exciting and soft contrast to strict architecture -In small or large gardens, at the summer cottage, in parks, on roof terraces -You can create a naturalistic oasis wherever it is possible to make something grow, to the great joy of both people and biological diversity.
Local, wild-growing plant species (or cultivars of these) are often included in naturalistic planting designs. In traditional nature gardens, one often confines oneself to only local species, while within this style, plant varieties from all over the world may be used. The main criteria is that the individual species fits into the whole, in terms of design, behaviour and robustness.
It is important that the plants provide interest over time (before and/or after flowering), and contribute to biological diversity, especially with regard to pollinators and other wildlife.
Most books have plant directories - very useful!
(Click the links below).