Garden Design’s New Perennial Movement

Trentham Estate by Piet Oudolf Tod MangreenAn example of the New Perennial Movement style the Trentham Estate was designed by Piet Oudolf. Photo by Tod Mangreen

Have you been to the High Line in New York City? Or the Lurie Garden in Chicago? Have you admired the sweeping masses of beautiful plantings and wondered what this look was called and where it came from? Well wonder no more.

This garden design style is the referred to as the New Perennial Movement. New Perennialists use a range of herbaceous perennials and grasses planted in drifts to invoke a naturalistic look. There is an emphasis on creating gardens that establish a link to nature. With the New Perennial Movement plants are chosen for form and structure and much emphasis is put on planting the right plant in the right spot.

Gravetye Perennial BorderCraig VaughnA perennial border at Gravetye, William Robinson’s garden. Photo by Craig Vaughn.

Many argue that the father of the New Perennial Movement was William Robinson, an Irish gardener in the late 18th and early 19th centuries who eschewed the Victorian pattern garden of planted out bedding schemes for a more naturalistic approach. He championed the mixed herbaceous border and wild gardening and is credited with spurring the English cottage style of gardening which is often cited as the precursor to the New Perennial Movement.

Modern day garden and landscape designers who are New Perennialists include Piet Oudolf, Adam Woodruff, and Benjamin Futa. Their work can be seen across the country in both public spaces and private gardens.

High Line CU Mixed Border Steven SeveringhausA mixed perennial border on the High Line designed by Piet Oudolf. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.

Designed by well known Dutch plant designer Piet Oudolf New York City’s High Line is probably the best known public space that utilizes the New Perennial planting style. A former nursery owner, Oudolf’s impressive knowledge of perennials helps him create beautifully patterned planting designs.

Lurie Garden Bob SegalThe Lurie Garden in Chicago is a rooftop garden built on a parking garage. Photo by R.L. Segal.

Oudolf is also credited with designing The Lurie Garden in Chicago. The Lurie Garden is unique in that it is a rooftop garden built on top of a parking garage.

Bank of Springfield  Adam WoodruffGardens at The Bank of Springfield designed by Adam Woodruff. Photo by Adam Woodruff.

Adam Woodruff is another well known New Perennialist. With a background in botany and a passion for plants Woodruff has designed many residential and commercial gardens. One of his most noted projects is the garden he did for the Bank of Springfield in Springfield, IL which received an Honor Award from the Perennial Plant Association.

Myrtle RoadBenjamin Futa’s personal garden, The Gardens at Myrtle Road, where he trials new plants. Photo by Benjamin Futa.

A lifelong gardener, Benjamin Futa studied Landscape Architecture and Public Horticulture at Purdue University. To broaden his horticultural knowledge and understanding of plants Futa maintains a trial garden, The Gardens at Myrtle Road, where he can observe and study plants he is interested in using in his designs.