Create your own Prairie – Pensthorpe style

Back in August I visited Piet Oudolfs, Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk. It had been on the wish list for a long, long time and it was well worth the journey.

Huge swathes of colour & texture guide you around the garden down to the lake, and you can see the parallels to other gardens (see my post on Trentham gardens ) designed by Mr Oudolf, only here the sloping site provided extra dimension and viewpoints. The maturing oak trees provide stature and welcome shade to sit beneath.

The garden was created for the Millennium as the name suggests and in 2008/9 the designer returned to renovate areas. Part of the pleasure is the unexpected, haphazard even, plant combinations. Colours clash brilliantly, self sown rusty foxgloves (Digitalis ferruginea) pop up randomly.

Ideas to take from Pensthorpe;

  • Choose hardy plants, and those capable of standing up without staking.
  • Be generous – don’t plant 1 Echinacea. Plant at least 7 or if you have space maybe 21!
  • Use grasses – for texture and movement Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ is especially good for standing tall and not flopping around.
  • Use contrasting flower shapes – I know its tempting to buy those daisy shapes! Try spikes, panicles, globes and umbels (like cow parsley).
  • Think of the birds and the bees – leave seedheads and foliage for nesting material.
  • Experiment! You can always dig perennials up and rearrange them!