Piet Oudolf & Tom Stuart-Smith at Wisley

We’ve been here before, the double borders created by Piet Oudolf at Wisley, combining perennials with grasses, wave after wave – and the equally dramatic planting around the lake, concentric arcs of repeated blocks, catching the low autumn sun.

The Piet Oudolf Borders pre-date the Glasshouse and are relatively mature now, evolving along their considerable 147m length and 11m width (originally planted with over 16,000 perennials and grasses).

The Glasshouse was opened in June 2007 and a major part of the project was always settling the Glasshouse and the Clore Learning Centre into Wisley’s framework of gardens. Landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith came up with a typically elegant, understated solution and his planting is now reaching maturity.

He has reflected the curving form of the structure into its surroundings with a gentle ripple of interwoven crescents, connecting them to each other and to the familiar surroundings of Wisley – from Fruit Mount to Alpine Meadow.

The main pattern or geometry begins at the Glasshouse entrance, from where a series of parallel paths gradually curve and intersect to create a pattern of planting beds and lawns that begin as simple rectangles and then develop into a series of interlocking sickle shapes.

Each compartment has a consistent planting character. Over this basic geometry is laid a circumferential pattern of clipped beech hedging, starting as a series of tall columns outside the entrance and then coalescing into low, sweeping curves.

Overlooking the lake from the bottom of the Piet Oudolf borders, and these borders in turn from the top of the Fruit Mount, with strong, slanting sun highlighting the golds and bronze, charcoal, plum, mustard and green that colour the landscape, I’m struck once more by the genius of these two designers.

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