Have you ever viewed a landscape in nature, a well-designed park or even a yard that caused you to pause longer than usual, pulled in by a combination of beauty, emotion and intrigue that would be difficult to describe?
What are the ingredients that make a landscape not only pleasant to view, but give us something more like feelings of excitement, contentment and emotion? We have a rare opportunity to learn such a landscape’s secret ingredients described by a world-renowned landscaper in the award-winning documentary film "Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf," which is being screened internationally with a one-time showing March 5 at the Fargo Theatre and screenings in Wisconsin and Minnesota later in March.
The film immerses the audience in the work of inspirational Dutch landscape designer and plantsman Piet Oudolf and takes us inside his creative process, from his appealing sketches to his theories on beauty. Poetic cinematography provides splendid views through all four seasons in Piet’s own gardens, and on visits to his signature works in New York, Chicago and the Netherlands.
The film follows Oudolf as he designs and installs a major new garden at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, a gallery and arts center in southwest England, a garden he considers his best work yet.
Piet Oudolf was born in 1944 in Haarlem, Netherlands, and lives in Hummelo, a tiny village where he started a nursery to grow perennials. His gardens have since become renowned for Oudolf’s innovative approach and ideas about planting design. He’s achieved international acclaim, been awarded numerous honors and is a successful gardening author.
What makes Oudolf’s landscapes special? He’s often seen as the figurehead of "The New Perennial Movement," utilizing herbaceous plantings and meadows made up of robust perennials and grasses. He uses a well-thought palette of plants that are chosen for the rhythm they create over the seasons. This makes for an ever-vibrant landscape whose colors, textures and hues shift through the year.
The Guardian writes: “Mr. Oudolf designs with plants that have great character and textural qualities as opposed to simply relying on colorful flowers. His gardens resemble a landscape crafted by Mother Nature, with no help from human hands. The colors are subtle, and plants tend to be massed together. His designs offer up something wild and alive. The plant combinations are dynamic and playful.”
Oudolf’s gardens have been described as Impressionist paintings in motion, with drifts of color set against masses of more neutral-colored grasses. Once one understands the Oudolf look, all gardeners can achieve similar effects using plants adapted to their own region.
The Fargo screening of "Five Seasons" is sponsored by the Minnesota State Horticultural Society (MSHS), and promoted by the Extension Master Gardener Programs of North Dakota State University and University of Minnesota and American Society of Landscape Architects.
“We thought it was important to sponsor these screenings to motivate gardeners and inspire them with a new concept for sustainable designs that are also pollinator magnets,” says Lara Lau-Schommer, MSHS community outreach and volunteer coordinator. “We’re bringing this film to the community in March, as all gardeners are itching to get into the garden. Piet Oudolf is truly an artist when it comes to garden design.”
Seeing this documentary on the big screen with fellow gardeners will make for an inspirational evening. The Los Angeles times says the film “reveals gardens you'd look forward to getting lost in,” and Film Journal International says, “All plant lovers will be mesmerized. “
Following the 75-minute film, NDSU Extension Horticulturist Esther McGinnis and I will lead a discussion of the film and its concepts. To view the film’s trailer, go to www.fiveseasonsmovie.com.
If you go
What: "Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf"
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5
Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway N.
Info: Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for general admission and must be purchased in advance at https://northerngardener.org/mshs-events/five-seasons
Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler’s Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at email@example.com.