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Oudolf vs Robinson: exploring styles in naturalistic planting

This event has now been postponed from 7 April to 17 November 2020. All tickets purchased are valid for this new date, ticket holders have been contacted with information.

Piet Oudolf has had a huge impact on the way we garden in the West. As the unofficial head of the ‘New Perennial Movement’, his influence has permeated stately homes and public spaces alike, with a ‘naturalistic’ planting style that is often seen as an antidote to the fussy, regimented bedding schemes that have become indelibly associated with our municipal parks.

But what of our indigenous style of gardening? The British Isles boast their own rich tradition of naturalistic planting, pre-dating Oudolf and his cohort by a century or so. William Robinson (1838-1935) abhorred the waste, the artificiality and aesthetic sterility of Victorian bedding schemes and rebelled violently against it. In his writings and gardening practice he sought to showcase the natural grace of wildflowers and mimic their patterns of growth in the wild.

Although deriving from a similar source of inspiration, the approaches to gardening typified by these key figures also diverge in important ways. Drawing on their own experience as gardeners and plantsmen Mat Reese and Rory Dusoir will undertake a lively discussion in an attempt to illuminate the key differences and similarities between the two traditions which both continue to have vital importance today.

Speaker bios

  • Mat Reese

    Mat Reese

    Following an inspiring expedition to North-Eastern Greenland in 1991 with the British Schools Exploring Society, Mat fell in love with plants and decided not to return to school, but instead to pursue a three-year apprenticeship in horticulture at the Liverpool Universities Botanic Gardens at Ness. He went on to study at Myerscough Agricultural College, RHS Wisley, and at RBG Kew before embarking on a six-year stint at Great Dixter with Christopher Lloyd. He lived at Dixter and rose to become assistant Head Gardener. He describes his time working there as pivotal in gaining an understanding of the art of making and keeping an English Flower Garden.

    During his career Mat has continued to travel to see plants in the wild and was lucky enough to explore the far reaches of the eastern Himalayas with the late renowned plant hunter, Michael Wickenden.

    Over the past 10 years, Mat has been designing and planting an English Flower Garden in the Robinsonian style at Malverleys, nr Newbury. It is gardened in the naturalistic style and influenced by his travels and his time at Dixter. Malverleys has featured in numerous magazines and on the BBC and has received considerable acclaim for its adventurous and inspirational plantings. Mat is a regular contributor to Gardens Illustrated.

  • Rory Dusoir

    Rory Dusoir

    Rory has been working in horticulture for over twenty years. His interest in plants and gardening was conceived quite suddenly while studying Classics as an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford. He went on to learn his trade under Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter, where he was assistant Head Gardener, as well as a stint at Chilcombe House at the renowned garden of John and Caryl Hubbard.

    To gain a broader perspective on plants, Rory undertook the prestigious Kew Diploma, during the course of which he met his future business partners. After two Head Gardenerships at private estates in Wiltshire and Surrey respectively, Rory settled down in SW London and started the landscape business Kennedy Song Dusoir, with Jeeun Song-Dusoir and Phil Kennedy.

    Rory has contributed to several books and written articles for Gardens Illustrated, the Daily Telegraph, the RHS Garden magazine and Horticulture magazine in the US. His first book, ‘Planting the Oudolf Gardens at Hauser and Wirth Somerset’ was published in September 2019.

Image: Hauser & Wirth Somerset, by Jason Ingram