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A wild/prairie/cottage garden in Scotland

Hello everyone!

Having spent a few months sporadically landscaping my little garden in Dundee, Scotland, I'm starting to approach crunch-time and am sure that there are design tweaks that my inexperienced eyes just can't see!

I'd very much appreciate your help.


1- Learn how to effectively put together an Oudolf-style garden without making loads of design mistakes.

2- design bed shapes that optimise the space- I don't mind losing even more grass to do the right thing

3- Cover up the ugly fence and uglier gas box (think dense planting, but also trellis etc as an option..?)

4- Offset the grey of the house (and the weather) with some beautiful colour

5- bring nature back in to what feels like quite a barren garden

You'll see my main border wrapping round the ugly fence to the West, past the gas box in the NW corner, and the old wall to the North of the garden (facing directly South). That was my first plan, it's OK, but I'm wondering if my border should be bigger. I'm completely OK with losing more of the grass, and even planting on top of/removing some of the paving to achieve the correct look. 

The pots you see down the wall to the west are a mixture of Sarracenia, garlic and random plants I've bought at garden centres. Hardly any of it is consequential to the final plan.

I'm aiming for a wild, perennial prairie feel but hugely open to any level of suggestion. I'm wondering if an experienced garden designer might easily pick up on something that I've missed. 

Please take this and tell me what you'd do with it if it were your own project. I've even had a drone photo taken in case anyone wants to sketch all over it!

I'd like to order seeds and get them started in the next couple of weeks. 

All the appreciation in the world,


Garden from above, in correct orientation. 1.2m spade for scale. Excuse the mess.



  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 18,625
    edited January 2020
    I confess I had to google “Oudolf”.😊

    The first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of his gardens. Not one of them puts you in mind of suburban Scotland.

    The second thing is that “prairie” and “Dundee” don’t really flow off the tongue together. Too much rain in Dundee for a prairie, unless you are going to have herds of caribou grazing your nettle patch.

    Sorry to seem to make fun of what you are obviously keen to achieve. But it’s always a good idea to make your garden something that works for you, not gains a fat fee for fancy drawings.

    If you like a lawn and you are happy to maintain it, through muddy times and all, then have a lawn. If you want to be able to walk from one end of the garden to the other without putting on wellies then avoid the grass idea and go for paving. 

    Oudolf seems to like perennials. Lots of garden designers like perennials. I like perennials. But rather than follow a designer’s grand ideas, choose things that will suit your climate and soil. I love lobelias - the scarlet ones are fantastic. I went out and bought a load of them based on what I’d seen in a magazine. But they just curl up and die here. So that plan had to be thrown on the compost heap.

    Others will come along with more professional advice than I can offer. I stick to practical.😊
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • MarlorenaMarlorena East AngliaPosts: 5,314
    Oudolf gardens don't have lawns... they are the very antithesis of a Piet Oudolf inspired garden...  this is a Dutch/northern German style of gardening and it looks best against a flat landscape with a dry, hotter climate - rain flattens everything..
    ...but best of luck.... his essential plants are Miscanthus, Stipa and Persicaria varieties amongst many more..  
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 8,235
    You certainly have a good sized plot there !
    I have no knowledge of gardening in Scotland, but just by Googling Piet Oudolf's name you are faced with many ideas.
    There are gardeners on here who garden further North who can better advise you as to the practicalities of it, but my comment would be that asking members of a gardening forum what they would do with it would overwhelm you with different opinions :)
    It's your garden to do with what you want. You will make mistakes, things will die, some things will go berserk and threaten to take over. Things will be planted in the wrong place, you might decide you need more or less lawn and/or paving. I'm just a little worried that you're over thinking it and possibly losing sight of the enjoyment. (Sorry if I'm wrong ! ). If you can get to it, l would strongly advise paying a visit here and talking to the exhibitors.
    I wish you luck  :)
  • I do agree, AnniD- I think I'm probably just overthinking. Good advice!
  • a1154a1154 Posts: 857
    Hi David, I went for a similar look, and I’m also in scotland, mainly because I love grasses. If you are convinced that’s what you want, I think it’s achievable in a smallish space. I’d get rid of the grass and make a curvy path (spiral? Figure of 8?) with your stone slabs and similar coloured gravel. Make a list of colourful perennials and grasses you like and are suitable for your climate and soil, but make it a small list. Not loads of variety but lots of the same plants to get the right look. 
    Knoll gardens is a fab website for grasses and perennials, and I’m sure they will give you advice. A bit far for a visit though! 
  • I agree with AnniD. You are not relaxing enough about it, some gardens just evolve to your way of life.
    You have a wonderful space there,and a beautiful wall to show off. If it was mine I would go for the colourful perennials,and keep some grass. You can put some lovely waving grasses in anyway.
    The whole truth is an instrument that can only be played by an expert.
  • AstroAstro Posts: 328
    Echoing some others , to a certain extent I think you should just go for it , and get it as close to the style you like. I appreciate that getting it right first time is ideal owing to time, cost and not having to suffer parts not working, and the fear of public ridicule 😄. But worst case you will have to adapt little bits as you go along but that's part of the fun imo. 

    Last year I myself wanted some Piet Oudolf style to my garden. Another horticultural designer that was a big influence was James Hitchmough  who designed the planting at the 2012 London Olympics(he may be worth checking out if you haven't already). Both their choice of plants seem to be based on growing without too much intervention, that is they are not ammending soil and adding adding fertilizer. They use plants that thrive in the condition given, things that don't are not used.    

    For grass I  used  stipa tenuissima  to give a naturalistic look, it helps soften anything that may ordinarily stick out like a sore thumb, meaning  experimenting is easier.  I used cornflowers, scabiosa, cosmos and achillea to give a looseness. Then added  such as echinops,echinacea and kniphofia. At times the annual flowers went wild and became leggy , flopping onto the lawn . I ended up using some more structural planting, just because it worked better within my urban front garden. I figured  I wanted it wild but not too wild 😏 

    Give it a go and you'll learn what works for you.👍

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 26,219
    I'm not convinced grasses like stipa will do well in Dundee - far too cold and wet in winter.  If you want tall, wavy grasses, try molinia forms instead which are better suited.   Given you are planting borders, rather than swathes by the acre, I think you should aim for a good mixed border look using plants that like your soil and weather.   If you get it right, there'll be a succession of bulbs and perennials to take colour and form thru the season.

    If you didn't watch it last night, look on i-Player for Monty Don's new series on American gardens which started last night.  The first episode had a good section all about prairie planting and how and why it works.  It may be repeated on BBC2 this Sunday morning too.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • AstroAstro Posts: 328
    You very likely are right about stipa @Obelixx, it was just what I chose to use based on limited knowledge.  I live in Durham which is about 130 miles south of Dundee and it worked well, whether it will continue to do so I have no idea 🤨.I grew it from seed so I would likely just grow it when needed if it didn't over winter.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 26,219
    I got excited about stipas and pennisitums one year for my Belgian garden.  Tried the tenuissima, oaty and pheasant's tail stipas and not one survived.   The pennisetums didn't even last till winter.  Autumn saw those off.  Early -8C in October and then wet afterwards.  Fatal.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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