Thousands of tall plants, flowering plants and green plants are being landscaped in Belle Isle to create a visual experience for people and a new habitat for animals and bugs.
And the plants will last all four seasons. The gates to the Oudolf Garden Detroit will open in late summer of 2021 when the plants begin to bloom, but Belle Isle visitors can get a glimpse outside of the gates.
After four years of planning, the goal is to make sure that visitors can see something visual, no matter what season it may be. Visitors will see 26,000 plants with 100 different plant varieties.
“You’re going to see colors of all kinds,” said Meredith Simpson, an organizing volunteer. “Color will continue into fall. In winter, we’ll see shapes and colors holding snow. It’s very adept at making sure there’s something going on all the time in different parts of the garden.”
Meredith Simpson, an organizing volunteer, is one of many volunteers that help to create the gardens regularly. Almost 1,000 volunteers are listed to help out and 3,600 people are on the Oudolf Garden Detroit’s email list. The gardens will receive about 40 volunteers a day because of coronavirus concerns.
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“There’s a community component because this is going to be a free, open, public garden for all of Detroit and all of the visitors thing to Detroit,” said Simpson. You can relax. You can take in the beautiful plants and colors. See butterflies you’ve never seen before. Be with your family. Have a picnic.”
Piet Oudolf, a Dutch internationally renowned garden designer, is the person behind the vision. He has created large gardens with strategic visuals all over the world which present multiple colors of plants and new habitats.
Simpson has been able to visit a few of Oudolf’s gardens in Europe, Chicago and New York. She says Oudolf is a special landscape designer.
“It really touches your deep emotions because it sort of feels like a meadow or prairie, almost on steroids,” Simpson said. “It’s something in your dreams.”
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When it comes to the technical side of things, Ann Arbor’s InSite Design Studio went through several hoops to create a new floor plan because of the high flood plain. In order to get permission to place the garden in Belle Isle, the company had to ask permission from eight regulatory agencies.
Shannan Gibb-Randall, principal of Insite Design Studio, said that Oudolf created a drawing of the design that he wanted to see and the company set to create a construction site.
“This is highly engineered,” said Susan Noblet, a designer at InSite Design Studio. “It looks like it’s just a garden but there’s drainage underneath and there’s an engineered soil because the plants need a specific soil. Our primary driver in redesigning was getting above this water level because we knew that this year was probably going to be higher.”
The company has been working with the Oudolf Garden Detroit volunteers to make this happen for two years. A professional landscaping company is set to
“I just think that we’ve all worked really well together,” said Gibb-Randall. “People have very different strengths and people have figured out what those strengths are.”
And the nurseries that the plants have been purchased from are all within the Midwest. Simpson said that about 90% of the plants came from nurseries in Michigan.
Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm, which is north of Lake Geneva, Wis., was dropping off a share of plants to the new garden. He says he has been apart of many Oudolf projects. He said it took about three years for the plants to really show its patterns.
“It’s fun because it shows people the possibilities of plants and then plants interacting emotionally with people that have not seen something like this before,” Diblik said. “The future is plant-driven.”
The Oudolf Garden Detroit will open for public viewing in August 2021.