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So that's what my garden is!! Thanks for this post Susan. And what's more, I suspect my garden will weather the terrible drought we are having better than many of my neighbors' plantings. Very interesting post!

thanks for the review on Wolgang Oehme. Grasses are of course part of my garden. But do I count in your survey ? I live in Europe. My garden gets inspiration mostly from English gardens, that mix colours and shapes, and borrow a lot from overseas specimens. Grasses are interpreted like the basic frame structure of a more elaborate planting scheme.

I was stunned to see his obituary in the NYT on Sunday. We certainly owe Oehme (and how good to finally know how to pronounce EHR-ma) a debt of gratitude for his philosophy and aesthetic.

I’ll always be grateful to Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden for their revolutionary “New American Garden” that obliterated the ubiquitous lawn and, wonder of wonders, used plants that were native to the horticultural stepchild, the American Midwest. It took a Dutchman and a German to see the beauty of our flowers and grasses--the snooty eastern garden writers never deigned to look at us. And, as a result, we Midwesterners dreamed of east coast gardens with azaleas and rhododendrons, hollies, and other broad-leaved evergreens, and trees such as Flowering Dogwood and Kousa Dogwood. I know—I tried to grow most of them myself; but not only do we have colder winters, we have less rainfall, and more importantly, we have alkaline soil as opposed the acidic soil of the northeast.

Oehme and van Sweden use some the above plants I only dream of, but they have added Midwestern prairie natives to their repertoire, as well: Black-eyed Susan, Purple Cone Flower, Spikenard, Joe Pye Weed, Blazing Star, Tufted Hair Grass, and Red Switch Grass appeared in Bold Romantic Gardens, their first book; Goatsbeard, Butterfly Weed, New England Aster, Boltonia, Black Snakeroot, False Sunflower, False Dragonhead, Northern Sea Oats, and Indian Grass made the list in Gardening with Nature, their second book.

They left out more Midwestern native plants than they included, but, at least, it was a start. I was excited about their books with the stunning photographs.

Then Midwestern Landscape Architects began to follow suit, using only Midwestern native plants in their designs, the first one being Sears new corporate headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Il. In 1997, I switched my business to designing only with Midwestern native plants and have never looked back.

So thank you, Wolfgang and James.

Pat Hill

I really wish the front lawn really had been "obliterated" but alas, I think it's still pretty ubiquitous. But Oehme certainly was an innovator who inspired a generation of gardeners and designers. Here's hoping he's enjoying the next life, basking in the sunshine in a sea of waving grasses.

Very nice piece, thanks! I like it wild too...

Susan, thank you for this sensitive recognition of his huge talent. I didn’t know about his death until I saw the obit in the Sunday Times. Thank you, so much, for this piece. He was enormously important, influencing every serious gardener as well as what corporate people make us look at every day. Thank you for reminding us that some of the design principles we try to use -– well, they came from him. He made our world more beautiful.

Finally someone tells it like it is in regards to azaleas. Two weeks of color and 50 weeks of boring shrubs. And how nice to see the use of grasses and the beauty of using grasses in the landscape.

What an inspiring story! He really does have a beautiful garden. I was never a big fan of azaleas before but he really does a great job using them because it looks great with the grasses. Is he growing any fruits or vegetables though?

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