Design & Decor - Design Ideas

The natural planting style

Lorraine Flanigan
Photography by
Janet Davis

Lorraine Flanigan talks to world-famous Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf, renowned for developing the Natural Planting Style. Inspired by nature and skilfully shaped by innovative plant combinations, this elegant look is easy to get with our tips and plant picks

Style elements:

  • A palette of hardy, long-lived and non-invasive perennial planting material
  • A combination of forms and textures, from umbrella-shaped Joe Pye weed and spires of bugbane to prickly sea hollies and frothy meadow rues 
  • Ornamental grasses to set a mood: big, bold blocks of a single specimen to make a powerful impact or loosely planted drifts woven through the landscape to impart a more casual feeling 
  • Double-duty plants that also have seedheads and pods to sustain interest through autumn and winter 
  • Formal, clipped hedges with informal, herbaceous planting

Plant picks:

Piet Oudolf relies on a palette of long-lived and sustainable plants. Here are some that form the core of his designs.


  • Aster (Aster spp.) From Zone 2*
  • Masterwort (Astrantia major) Zone 3
  • Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) Zone 3 
  • Perennial sage (Salvia spp. and cvs.) From Zone 3*
  • Burnet (Sanguisorba spp.) From Zone 2*
  • Stonecrop (Sedum spp.) Zone 2
  • Betony (Stachys officinalis) Zone 5 
  • Speedwell (Veronica spp.) From Zone 2*
  • Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) Zone 3

Ornamental grasses

  • Reed grass (Calamagrostis spp. and hybrids) Zone 3
  • Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis cvs.) Zone 3
  • Purple Moor grass (Molinia caerulea cvs.) From Zone 3*
  • Autumn moor grass (Sesleria autumnalis) Zone 4
  • Dropseed (Sporobolus spp.) Zone 3

*depending on cultivar

Photo at top: The Toronto Botanical Gardens in December by Janet Davis –

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