Of Light And Land
Gardens Illustrated|December 2017

Covered in Narnia-like winter frosts the Piet Oudolf designed Millennium Garden at the heart of Pensthorpe Natural Park can stop visitors in their tracks

Matthew Biggs
We bought Pensthorpe thinking we were buying a nature reserve,” says Deb Jordan. “When we discovered it included a Piet Oudolf garden, it was like finding a Monet under the floorboards.”

Pensthorpe’s original owner, Bill Makins, had commissioned the Dutch designer early in his career – it was in fact Piet’s first public garden in Britain. His brief included instructions to keep the beautiful views and to create a garden that visitors should discover as a pleasant surprise and that looked its best from midsummer until mid October. The concept of retaining herbaceous plants and grasses for their winter beauty was little considered at the time.

In 2008, when the Jordans bought the nature reserve, they invited Piet back to refresh the garden. Over the intervening period Piet’s ideas on planting and colour had evolved and changes were made. Dominant species, such as Persicaria x fennica ‘Johanniswolke’, were more rigorously controlled, self seeders, such as Rudbeckia maxima, removed and splashes of bright-yellow Solidago and Inula magnifica ‘Sonnenstrahl’ added to the scheme.

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