Sep 22, 2009

Dead Stuff Catches On

September 20 /10 am /Lurie Garden/ Chicago

Walking around The Lurie Garden, with a bunch of landscape architects, in town for the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) Conference, was what you would expect, when garden gurus get together.

We look at landscapes and gardens differently. The conversation ranges from soil composition to questions about specific cultivars to design of hardscape and to the inevitable discussion of maintenance issues.

Some of us love the counterpoint between Piet Oudolf’s free flowing planting style and Kathryn Gustafson’s hardscape. Here is a garden evocative of the prairie and landscape design that encloses it with 14 ft. armature (see photo). To me the two ideas are at odds. Gustafson creates a garden room, harking back to traditional English gardens of all sizes and at the same time plays off the architecture of Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano. Piet embraces the contemporary, but in a different way. He designs a garden based on an American Midwestern idiom. He seeks to remind of us our roots, but at the same time creates a new kind of planting style...a style that suits our desire for sustainability and modernity.

At this time of year, The Lurie Garden is mostly a garden of seedheads.

Agastache rupestris,

Aster ‘October Skies,'

Helenium ‘Rubinzwerg’

and grasses like Eragrostis spectabilis and Chastmanthium latifolum still bloom.

But mostly the garden is a mixture of seedheads. Some stems are still erect, others lean over each other and onto pathways.

I was interested if anyone besides gardeners would see the exquisiteness of this autumnal scene. Walking around the garden on several occasions, I noticed people of all ages engaged in what they were seeing, noticing how plants “age” and understanding the natural progression of a garden.

Unexpectedly you find that beauty takes hold of people in unexpected ways and reminding us that everything is "a work in progress."


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