Oudolf-designed garden growing on Detroit’s Belle Isle
DETROIT (AP) — The beautification of Detroit’s Belle Isle park continues with the public opening of a 2.5-acre (1-hectare) perennial garden designed by Dutch horticulturist Piet Oudolf.
A ribbon-cutting is scheduled Aug. 28 for Oudolf Garden Detroit outside the island’s carillon.
The 985-acre (398-hectare) state park, a few miles northeast of downtown, has been abuzz with improvements in recent years, including the restoration of a 200-acre (81-hectare) forested wetland and renovations to a conservatory and the Belle Isle Aquarium.
“Detroit is very special to me. This garden sits on one of the most natural sites for one of my gardens anywhere,” Oudolf said in a release. “It’s a place where people can go and never be bored or disappointed. It is also a place that will teach you about plants because you will see plants you have never seen before or have never seen combined this way.”
Oudolf’s work can be seen at Lurie Garden in Chicago and the Highline in New York City, among many other gardens worldwide.
Oudolf Garden Detroit includes 32,000 perennials and grasses.
The all-volunteer Oudolf Garden Detroit Grounds Crew spent more than five years working on it. The Garden Club of Michigan was able to secure Oudolf’s commitment to the $4.7 million project.
“A public garden like this is needed now more than ever,” said Maura Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Oudolf Garden Detroit Grounds Crew. “It offers a peaceful, beautiful and safe place to enjoy a piece of living art. It’s good for the body and the soul.”
Oudolf designs gardens to be accessible and interesting in all seasons, said Richard Thomas, another member of the grounds crew.
“Every 10 days it’s a new show as the plants grow and change,” Thomas said.
Belle Isle has a rich history. Generations of Detroit residents have held family reunions and other celebrations on the island, which has beaches, ball fields, playgrounds and a small golf course. It was a training ground for World War II troops.
The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York’s Central Park. Belle Isle’s conservatory and aquarium were designed by noted architect Albert Kahn.
The state of Michigan signed a 30-year lease in 2013 to lease the park from the city. At the time, Detroit was under state financial oversight and going through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The move was to save Detroit $6 million on annual maintenance costs.