Documentary Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf
starring Piet Oudolf, directed by Thomas Piper
launched in 2018 by Argot Pictures, 75 minutes
You might not have heard of him but Piet Oudolf is one of the most famous contemporary Dutch Designers. His work can be found all over the world and chances are that you did enjoy it without even knowing it.
Piet Oudolf is a revolutionary landscape designer, who’s radical approach and ideas about planting design have redefined what gardens can be. He designs gardens that you wish could be found in nature, but some of his most famous projects can be found in the biggest cities. For example the High Line Park in New York. His own gardens and plantnursery, he started back in 1982 at his farmhouse in Hummelo (a tiny village in east Netherlands) to learn what plants do, are both an endless experiment and his actual masterpiece.
Piet always knew he had something special to offer the world, but it took him a while to find out what that something actually was. Supported by his wife’s stable income, Piet could try out different jobs to find what makes his heart beat a little faster. When he ended up working in a plant shop he finally found what he felt really passionate about.
What makes his gardens so special is that he sees beauty in ugliness, in death, in decay, in the unexpected. He prefers plants with real character and looks further than just the flowerful and colourful ones. In his gardens, the plants shine all year long. Not only when they’re in bloom they’re appreciated, he thinks many even look better and more interesting when they’re dying and their ‘skeletons’ show an almost graphic beauty.
“I put plants on a stage and let them perform.”
– Piet Oudolf
Because Piet dares to think outside of the box, his work preludes a new generation of garden plants and brings more spontaneity to gardens and landscape design. As Rick Darke, a famous botanist, says to Piet in the documentary, “your work teaches us to see what we have been unable to see.”
What makes his gardens so unique and stunning is that he designs with seasonality. Therefore his work is almost mathematics; he has to think and design in time. He makes combinations and compositions of plants that compliment each other through the different stages of their life cycles. He knows how they grow, when they bloom, how the colours will change, their textures and the beauty of their decay. He creates atmospheres that feel free and natural, but are definitely man made. Every day the gardens change, every day they tell a different story.
The documentary, Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf, gives us an inside look in Piet’s creative process, from his abstract sketches, to his ideas on beauty, and the ecological implications his work has. Due to climate change and global warming, his work might even be politically charged. For his gardens he uses so many different species and shows people the beauty of diversity. Especially since he shows us plants are beautiful in any stage, whether blooming or dying, we know we have to be more appreciative of nature and be more careful with our precious planet.