Piet Oudolf’s Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe

Described on the website as “One of the most inspirational gardens in Norfolk, the Millennium Garden offers an acre of floral delights, creating a lush tapestry of colour and texture.  A stunning cascade of mixed perennials and grasses, designed by the renowned plantsman Piet Oudolf, the bold, colourful drifts and the naturalistic planting style make the Millennium Garden a particularly popular display with both garden and wildlife enthusiasts.

Flourishing with colourful butterflies and insects during the Spring and Summer months, and providing essential nesting materials and seeds for birds throughout the Winter, this fine Norfolk garden is worth a visit even after its mid-August peak, with the Autumnal colours of the perennial foliage providing a rich spectacle well into the Autumn.”

The sunny morning of 2nd of September saw us at Pensthorpe wild life park and garden.  For the Millennium Piet Oudolf designed a new garden to help attract visitors at times of the year when migrating birds might be absent.  The garden was renewed last year.  I last visited the garden over 10 years ago and I held it in my memory as one of the very best gardens I have ever seen.  I have always admired Piet Oudolf’s planting style and have tried to emulate it in my own garden, not quite successfully as his planting usually needs a certain amount of irrigation and are best suited to Northern European or North American climates.

Gravel paths wind their way through the planting and by the water's edge for seeing the wild water fowl

Gravel paths wind their way through the planting and by the water’s edge for seeing the wild water fowl

I was not disappointed by my visit this time!  From reading the information on their website you might be forgiven for thinking that the show would be over by September, but no, this garden is at its peak at the end of summer so September into early October is the ideal time to visit.  Interestingly I’m not sure that the Wild-life Trust who owns the garden actually has any idea how important a designer and innovator Piet has become!  Many people who visit, do so to see the migrating birds or the birds and squirrels that are being bred at Pensthorpe for reintroduction into the wild and for them the stunning gardens are just a bonus; some bonus I am going to stick my neck out and say I think this is Piet’s most successful garden in the whole of the UK and certainly much more beautiful than the double borders he designed for the RHS at Wisely, which somehow always disappoint me.

The mix of strong tones and softer hues a stimulating effect

The mix of strong tones and softer hues a stimulating effect

The use of similar colours but plants with different forms is restfull to the eye

The use of similar colours but plants with different forms is restfull to the eye

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Real tapestry, we all talk about it, here it is done with ease!

Real tapestry, we all talk about it, here it is done with ease!

The planting appears almost as a tapestry of colour and form with no soil showing anywhere; planting is in blended blocks giving solid colour mitigated by the form of the plants.  Movement is given by grasses and other tall perennials that waft around in the breeze.

There are the usual plants for this type of planting including Echinacea, Sanguisorba, Nepeta, but for me it is the overall effect I love, the individual species don’t really matter.

If you are ever near North Norfolk do visit this wonderful garden.

28 thoughts on “Piet Oudolf’s Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe

  1. Those are lovely photos, Christina, and what a great garden – I knew a little about it, but hadn’t seen any shots, so thanks. I seem to be surrounded by Piet Oudolf at the moment – maybe some of the influence will rub off!

  2. Fabulous. I could spend the afternoon just gazing at your photographs of this garden. It is a restful planting and I think it would be great to see it in person for the effect of the movement the grasses provide. It’s interesting to see where people get their inspiration and I would have no trouble believing that first picture is in your own garden.

    • I was lucky enough to meet Piet once, although he isn’t a charming man(!), he doesn’t describe his gardens as “low Maintainance” but they aren’t very demanding. As with all gardens good preparation is a key to success.

  3. Truly stunning! The tapestry of colors is inspirational. I am going to print this out. I serve on the board of a nearby public garden. We have a large meadow/wildflower area which needs some color. I believe a similar tapestry type effect could be achieved there, though we will have to do without Piet Ouldolf!

    • His books may be helpful in choosing the right plants for your site, good luck and do post images if you to persuade the board to plant like this. You will find lots of information about Piet’s planting at the High Line, New York.

  4. I have been to Pensthorpe….. many moons ago! Before the garden was there. Perhaps I’ll get there one day, as Norfolk is a favourite corner of mine. Those drifts of colour and texture really are beautiful. Very inspirational!

  5. beautiful Christina thanks for sharing, I too love Piet Ouldolf designs and had read he wasn’t charming and can be quite tough, I still though feel a lot comes down to finaces, if we had the plants and army of workers he has at his disposal we could create more than we currently can, and, I too think some of the photos you have shown for this garden and the previous Hyde hall are similar to yours yet you have done it without the benefit of the army of workers and vast quantity of plants, yours has grown over the years of your hardwork, a much greater achievement, Frances
    now to see your long view,

    • You are very kind Frances but I wouldn’t want to detract from Piet’s vision. His style of planting was revolutionary, I simply took the idea and tried to make it work for me.

      • I understand what you mean Christina, and I do not know how the evolution of garden design has developed, I know a little of the evolution and development of Art/Painting and I do know about the evolution and development of costume/dress from earliest known to the 20thC, Frances

  6. Wow absolutely stunning! No soil showing – surely every gardeners dream! Gorgeous combinations. How inspiring! I found your Wisley comment interesting, I feel the same. Much prefer the look of this place. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love this place. We visited 2 years ago and pretty much had to be kicked out. We thought it was great value for money and spent about 7 hours there. Would love to go back and would recommend a visit to anyone who loves gardens and wildlife.

  8. I didn’t know about this garden – if we had been anywhere near Norfolk we would have gone! Oudolf’s work is fantastic. I think he has a garden that is open to the public at his nursery in Hummelo, Holland. I have dreamed about going there.

    • I don’t think his garden is open on a regular basis. I was able to see it 11 or 12 years ago when it was open a couple of days a year when the nursery was open. It was really interesting but his style was only just emerging and his own garden still had the strongly pruned hedges mixed with fabulous grasses, very different than other gardens at that time. When you are next in England Pensthorpe really is worth the time taken to get there, I think you’d love it.

  9. I too am a great fan of Piet Oudolf – ever since the year 2000 when I was introduced to his planting style by a nurseryman friend. My wife and I visited his private garden in Hummelo in 2006 and were thrilled by the naturalistic planting. He most definitely has been the inspiration behind our own garden, as you can see at http://www.adriansgarden.org. Besides Pensthorpe, Trentham is another great Oudolf garden which must be seen by all Oudolf aficianados.

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