The much-celebrated Oudolf Field is a planting installation at Hauser & Wirth Art Gallery on the outskirts of Bruton, Somerset. The style of planting here is that of a perennial meadow, laid out in 17 curving, interlocking garden beds divided by a broad, gravelled pathway. Originally, the Field really was a field – a plain, long, uncultivated rectangle sloping up and away from a handsome collection of stone farm buildings. Swiss couple Iwan and Manuela Wirth added a contemporary art gallery and asked Piet to provide a master plan for the whole site.
Central beds seem to merge in a single mass of plants: with dark-purple Sedum ‘Matrona’ and the creamy, flat-topped umbels of Selenium wallichianum. At the top of the garden is Smiljan Radić’s squat fibreglass pavilion.
Although many see the installation as a garden, calling it a field is uncompromisingly faithful to its setting; the field stretches out like a huge, flat canvas that Piet has painted in great swoops of perennial plants, with no intervening trees or shrubs. In spring there are camassias and alliums, but the planting is designed to reach a thundering crescendo in summer, with rudbeckias and echinaceas, heleniums and sedums, actaeas and veronicastrums. Below is a list of the key plants Piet Oudolf has used in the design.
24 key plants from the Oudolf Field
Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’
A key plant for the late-summer border, with strongly reflexed petals of a rich reddish-brown.
Height 95cm-1.2m. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 4a-8b
Helenium ‘Loysder Wieck’
Its scrolled petals stand out in an arresting combination of pink and pale yellow.
Its soft, flowering spikes are most beautiful when backlit, as here.
Previously known as Aster umbellatus, this is tall perennial with delicate white flowers.
Height 1.3m. Hardiness USDA 3a-8b.
Symphyotrichum novi-belgii ‘Violetta’
One of the most brilliant of the autumn-flowering asters.
Height 1.2m. Hardiness USDA 4a-8b.
Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Red Buttons’
Adds rich claret tones to an autumn border.
Height 60cm. Hardiness USDA 4a-8b.
Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’
A slender and well-named grass.
Height 1.8m. Hardiness USDA 5a-8b.
The rounded pompom flowers of the devil’s bit scabious are a magnet for insects.
Height 15-60cm. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 5a-9b.
Anemone x hybrida ‘Robustissima’
Lives up to its name, with strong stems of pale flowers, washed with a darker pink.
Height 80-1.2m. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 3a-8b.
The airy, white flower spikes of willow-leaved loosestrife rise from mounds of greyish foliage.
Height 1.2m. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 6a-8b.
The white Mexican feather grass provides a hazy background for the dark, prickly seedhead of Echinacea pallida.
Height 90cm. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 4a-10b.
The prairie dropseed, a North American native, has drooping heads that catch the dew.
Height 45cm. Hardiness USDA 3a-9b.
A tall meadow rue, seen here flowering in front of a cloud of the fine grass Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’.
Height 1.5m. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 4a-10b.
One of the finest umbellifers for mixed planting, growing here with Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’.
Height 1.2m. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 6b-10b.
The long-lived spikes will attract masses of bees around their blue flowers.
Height 80cm-1.5m. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 5a-9b.
Pays its rent twice: once with its fleshy, dark-purple foliage and again with its heads of pink flowers.
Height 90cm. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 4a-8b.
This sweet coneflower is a native of the central and eastern prairies of North America.
Height 1.2m. Hardiness USDA 4a-10b.
Anemone hupehensis var. japonica ‘Pamina’
A candy-coloured, double-flowered anemone that packs a real colour punch.
Height 75cm. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 5a-8b.
The spent seedheads of Allium atropurpureum mingle with the spiny balls of the blue globe thistle.
Height 1.5m. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 3a-10b.
Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’
Its white flower spikes look good through late summer and into autumn.
Height 1.2m. Hardiness USDA 4a-9b.
Eurybia x herveyi
Previously known as Aster macrophyllus ‘Twilight’, this creates a haze of pale mauve in the border.
Height 90cm. Hardiness USDA 3a-8a.
The feathery flower spikes of the goat’s beard rise above foliage that turns red in autumn.
Height 1m. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 4a-7b.
Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’
In late summer, the appropriately named Japanese blood grass brings a fiery blast of colour to a border.
Height 40cm. Hardiness RHS H3, USDA 5a-9b.
Stripped of their summer colour, the dry petals stream out like mermaids’ hair.
Height 90cm. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 4a-10b.
You can find more information on hardiness ratings here.
Address Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Durslade Farm, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0NL.
Tel 01749 814060.
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm, March-October; 10am-4pm, November-February. Admission free.
Photography Jason Ingram