You don’t have to garden—or even know what end of a plant goes in the ground—to be inspired by the mesmerizing documentary “Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.”
This dreamy 75-minute film showcases the philosophy and creative process of Dutch landscaper Piet Oudolf, who founded the new wave planting movement and designed some of the world’s most famous natural gardens, including Battery Park and the High Line elevated park in New York City and Lurie Park in Chicago.
Oudolf, 71, creates landscapes for year-round appeal, finding as much artistic beauty in the browns, blacks and grays of dried seed pods and dead flower heads as in the eruptions of color laced into his green-on-green fields of grasses in the spring.
His dense gardens look natural, but they are meticulously planned on paper.
If plants “behave well,” they can stay, he says. Otherwise they are removed. “It may look wild but it shouldn’t be wild,” he said. “This is what you’d like to see in nature.”
His admirers call him an artist, but Oudolf prefers the title of landscaper. “Everyone is an artist nowadays, which is why I probably don’t want to be one,” he said, smiling slightly in a Facetime interview from his home in Holland.
Successful gardening comes from experience and control, he said, but gardeners shouldn’t be hampered by rules such as “only use native plants.” He’s a strong advocate for landscapes that benefit their environment, but in Southern California, he said, that could mean plants from Australia or Mediterranean climates too.
Experiment, he said, but from an informed place, learning what a plant will do. “There are limits, but no rules.”
Ultimately, Oudolf hopes the movie will inspire people to think differently about landscaping.
“It’s a learning process, and people have to find out for themselves,” he said, “but plants can touch you very deeply and it’s fun, fun, to find it out.”
“Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf”
When: Screening June 29 thought July 1. Q&A with filmmaker Tom Piper on June 29.
Where: Laemmle Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.
Info: See the trailer at blog.laemmle.com