So, the endless ribbon of the New York High Line (note always to myself, not Highline) winds along the computer screen (a Mac of course), lots of projects in Netherlands now: waterfront in Rotterdam, some private gardens (good that the prophet is recognized in his own country) a park in Stockholm for public housing, a temporary planting at the Serpentine Gallery in London, for the Venice Biennale, a vast private garden on Nantucket. Ideas and new ways of combining plants constantly roll out onto big sheets of paper - there’s a discarded one from the pile by the studio woodstove on the windscreen of my car right now holding off the vicious Dutch frost. Ideas, ideas, ideas, plants, plants, plants. I have to find the words, words, words.
This time I brought along Ye Hang and her husband Jingyu Cai. Ye is one of James Hitchmough’s doctoral students from Sheffield. She wants to translate our books into Chinese, but she has turned out to be so much more, a real third member of the team on picture selection. She has a good eye and is not afraid to speak her mind, the three of us take votes on pictures sometimes and take turns out-voting each other. Piet clearly thinks she is good and its nice to see him listening to her suggestions. Ye is the confident, creative, ambitious, commercial few face of China, full of plans for what she wants to do: a landscape company to do naturalistic planting, teaching, even a nursery in Jingyu’s home town on the North Korean border, where the local flora is apparently fantastic and hardly explored.
|view from the kitchen in the annex, Piet took this shot with Pro HDR app on an iphone which enables you to combine 2 shots taken with different light settings so we get to see the view and the remnants of breakfast
The Oudolf studio is a new brick building, lovely high ceilings, plenty of light and space. There are some additional rooms, which can accommodate guests like us if need be, and a little kitchen - all very much like our own annex building in concept but contemporary rather than eco-. The room I’m staying in has some of Piet and Anja’s collection of Bloomsbury group ceramics and a wonderful Caucasian rug I remember Piet getting as payment of a job many years ago.
The studio is increasingly becoming inhabited by ‘designer toyz’ - limited edition characters inspired by graffiti, comix, manga and other manifestations of urban street art. A whole new world to me. Its as if here, in the quiet and open countryside of eastern Holland they represent the gritty urban reality of the NYC and Chicago streets where Piet’s planting projects make a real green impact. I half wonder if they come alive when we turn the lights out.