Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

By: Jessica Goddard

Charming and endlessly sensitive, Thomas Piper’s Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf presents an underacknowledged art form with patience, intrigue, and warmth.

The subject is Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, a leader of the naturalistic New Perennial garden movement, and designer of gardens in New York City’s High Line and Battery Gardens as well as Chicago’s Lurie Garden in Millennium Park.  This relatively short documentary follows Oudolf as he designs and plans a new ambitious garden project, discusses his beginnings at his personal garden in the Netherlands, and reflects on his past celebrated works.  All the while, Oudolf’s devotion to flora, gentle disposition, and methods of engaging with his “palette of plants” makes this film winning and worthwhile.

We start near the year’s end in the fall season, an apt introduction to Oudolf’s principle of choosing plants according to elements like structure, texture, and shape for year-round appeal, rather than traditional flowers (visually interesting only in warmer seasons).  Oudolf’s accumulated wisdom and philosophy of design are casually worked into the film as the seasons roll gradually forward, supplying delightful gems such as “if you see plants as good friends, then you see your friends back after a year” and the idea of “plants as a medium to bring out an emotion”.

A great documentary for those curious about garden-planning and the artistry involved, Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf is a pleasant, endearing watch full of all kinds of lovely scenery and perspective-bending insights.


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