Belle Isle is home to summer barbecues, setting sun date nights on Sunset Point with the Detroit skyline beaming in the distance, a stunning conservatory, even boasting the nation’s oldest aquarium. But soon, the island will be home to something even more spectacular: an Oudolf garden.
Designed by Dutch garden designer, nurseryman, and author, Piet Oudolf, our city will be home to one of only a handful of his amazing conversation pieces in the nation. Work on the one and a half-acre garden will begin near the Nancy Brown Carillon Tower this spring.
So why Detroit and what brought Piet here? A love letter penned by Maura Campbell of the Garden Club of Michigan was sent to Piet to entice him to come to Detroit. After seeing the city, exploring the grand architecture and the beauty of Belle Isle, he was hooked. When asked why Detroit, his response? “I was invited!” He went on to say “I was already intrigued by Detroit…”
“In Detroit, I see a beginning here.”
Oudolf plans on incorporating native plants as well as outside species to the site, making sure it’s appeal is season-less. His technique is more natural than decorative, inviting the “spontaneity of wild planting.” The desire for the space is to bring interactions between people, plants, to fall in love with nature again, and see something new every time we visit.
His past gardens, include the High Line and Battery Gardens in New York City, the Lurie Gardens in Millennium Park in Chicago, are each stunning works of art on their own, and known for bringing a piece of calm amongst busy cities, (not to mention hoards of tourists. Will we be so lucky?). Speaking of garden spaces in urban spaces, Piet commented on the difference between New York and Detroit, “In New York, it’s a trend. Here, it’s a need.” We couldn’t agree more, and are anxiously awaiting to smell the flowers he plants. Welcome Piet!