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Piet Oudolf’s Plan for Belle Isle in Detroit

Piet Oudolf

Famous Dutch Garden Designer and horticulturist Piet Oudolf is currently planning and building a park at Belle Isle island in Detroit. To see more of Oudolf’s work in the US and overseas, take a look at the video below!

Piet Oudolf

His work has been called “euphoric and transcendent.” With a deep knowledge of plants, Dutchman Oudolf is an artist working to tap into our emotional responses to nature. People gasp upon seeing Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and spend hours wandering the High Line feeling a timeless sense of joy. Oudolf sees beauty not only in a flower, but in leaf texture, plant form, seed heads, movement—and in the gradual decay heading from autumn into winter. Oudolf is also a steward of our environment using common sense practices. Inspired by North American prairies, he incorporates native plants and grasses in intricate combination with other durable, non-invasive plant selections. His gardens teem with life attracting not just people but birds, insects and pollinators. An annual late-winter cut down with a mulching mower enriches the soil with its own living mulch. Oudolf visits his gardens over time to work with local staff and make adjustments as needed, while allowing spontaneous seeding and change to occur naturally.

Belle Isle Oudolf Garden Sketch

Belle Isle Oudolf Garden Sketch © Piet Oudolf

Oudolf Garden Detroit

Belle Isle is situated in international waters between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It is the perfect point of connection for residents and visitors— to the park’s amenities, the city, water and the region’s greenways. This is why Piet Oudolf has selected the land surrounding the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon for his newest public garden— in the cultural heart of Belle Isle, adjacent to the historic Conservatory, Aquarium and Remick Band Shell. Belle Isle’s original master plan was first envisioned by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1880s.

Piet Oudolf favors regional natives as well as other hardy, well-behaved perennials, grasses, and bulbs. He is a renowned plantsman and former nursery owner and does not use invasive plants. Oudolf plantings are all about harmony, spontaneity, sustainability and durability year after year. Piet is renowned as a leader of the “Dutch wave” style of plant-centric, naturalistic perennial gardening. His gardens attract numerous birds, insects, butterflies and pollinators (and people too!)

Oudolf and his friend Roy Diblik believe in sustainable gardening practices emphasizing ‘right plant, right place’ and healthy soil. An annual garden cut-down is accomplished with a large mulching mower that in turn provides living mulch on the garden beds. This is done in late winter just before the first signs of spring growth, and will allow for the new public garden to be open and exciting year round. Oudolf’s public gardens have a paid head gardener or lead horticulturist who oversees the maintenance along with part-time help and volunteers. Oudolf visits all his public gardens regularly to check in and make any needed adjustments.

The team behind the garden is currently collecting donations and will start planting in the autumn of 2019 if everything goes according to plan. For donations and more information, please visit

DutchCulture USA