I have a large garden space, approximately 4000 square meters, consisting of a mix of fruit trees, a sizable lawn, and open meadows. Inspired by the renowned Piet Oudolf's Kengsington Garden, I am eager to replicate his style in my own garden.

My local gardener suggested that I till the soil, sow grass seeds first, and then mix perennials with annuals in a 1:4 ratio this year, with plans to sow more next year.

However, I am considering planting only perennials this year without incorporating annuals. The sunny areas of my garden have relatively few weeds, and I feel this approach aligns better with Oudolf's philosophy of complementing rather than controlling nature. Additionally, the land was previously arable, and I quite appreciate the existing wild grasses.

Would it be advisable to proceed with planting only perennials this year, foregoing the mixture with annuals? I am particularly interested in opinions and experiences from those familiar with Piet Oudolf's approach to gardening and whether this deviation from the suggested planting method would still yield a successful and aesthetically pleasing garden in the long term.

Thank you in advance for any insights or advice you can offer!


enter image description here

enter image description here

recent garden:

enter image description here

enter image description here

1 Answer 1


First and most important, Do not - ever - till your soil. All you'll do is destroy the tilth, deep-compact it, and bring weed seeds to the surface. Here is just one of many sources that discusses this. You've noted that the land is arable, so tilling has already been done (probably many times) in the past. You'll have to live with the deep compaction, so don't make it worse.

Second, don't be a slave to a particular "method"; there is more than one approach to anything in gardening. You like your existing grasses and meadow? Then clear some space within this meadow and plant some perennial PLANTS in that space. Be sure to clear enough room for the plants to expand over several years, and make sure that you mulch it. Clearing the entire area will be time-intensive and leave lots of bare ground for weeds to thrive in and out-compete any seeds that you plant. Note that perennial seeds general flower the second year and will remain small for usually two years, so definitely go with plants. Staging your redesign over several years will make it easier to afford the higher-cost-than-seeds plants.

Using your existing meadow grasses and plants allows you to build an Oudolf-like garden fairly quickly. As your perennials fill in, you can remove more of the existing plants if you like, and/or sculpt them into drifts like Oudolf.

Third, there's no requirement that you ever plant annuals. My own large gardena have no annuals because I'm old and don't like the effort required to replace them every year. If you keep blooming time in mind, you can easily have flowers all season with perennials, which is basically what Oudolf does. As a good friend once told me, "Friends don't let friends plant annuals".

  • 1
    Attempting to replace a lawn and meadow with chosen perennials by tilling the current vegetable 'residue' in only once seems like an appropriate time to till to me. How else do you clear a soccer field's worth of unwanted plants?
    – MackM
    Feb 16 at 19:54
  • 1
    @MackM Please read my link in my answer and also here: epicgardening.com/benefits-of-no-till-gardening plus any other No-till sites you can find. Tilling = loss of soil structure and creation of hard pan (deep compacted soil) is soil science. Tilling an area that contains aggressive grasses can also spread those grasses around the site. In the US, a rhizomatous grass called quackgrass is spread by tilling because each piece of root left by tilling sprouts into a new plant. Incorporating the existing meadow into the design both matches Oudolf's philosophy and is cost-effective.
    – Jurp
    Feb 16 at 20:50
  • I think it is easier to propagate perennials that propagate via division rather than those that propagate from seeds. True? Unfortunately, most of the Oudolf garden plants propagate from seeds, so it means I have to wait somewhat longer, and I cannot accelerate the propagation compared to when division can be used.
    – János
    Feb 16 at 21:13
  • 1
    @János In the list you show, I think all of the plants on it can certainly be propagated by division, except, perhaps, the Thalictrum. I'd plant them, wait a year or two, then split.
    – Jurp
    Feb 16 at 22:02
  • Wow, good to hear it propagation by division is possible :)
    – János
    Feb 17 at 14:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.