Editor’s note: Photo captions have been changed to correct the names of volunteers who assisted with the project.
Putting together a one-of-a-kind garden with 26,000 plants is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Just ask Roy Diblik and Austin Eischeid. They’ve done it.
Diblik and Eischeid are part of a team of professionals and volunteers working in the city until Friday to bring to life a garden on Belle Isle designed by world renowned Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf. But getting 106 varieties of plants in the ground in 15 25-foot-long garden beds — all in a very specific design — takes precision.
On Saturday, Diblik, a garden designer and the owner of a perennial farm outside Chicago who has worked with Oudolf on different projects in the U.S. for nearly two decades, carried around Oudolf’s plans in one hand and a spray can in the other. Stepping on one of the raised beds, Diblik looked at the plan — filled with a complicated mix of Oudolf’s Sharpie markings, indicating different types of plants — and then spray-painted circle markings on the dirt, showing which plants would go where.
“We interpret it,” said Diblik, who first met Oudolf nearly 20 years ago when Oudolf reached out to him about helping with Lurie Garden in Chicago. “We try to translate what’s on the page into the ground.”
By the time Oudolf Garden Detroit is finished, the 2.5-acre garden being installed in front of the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon between the Remick Music Shell and Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory will be unlike anything the city has seen before. It will include a variety of salvia, sedum, molinia grasses and much more. Nearly all of the plants are perennials and a majority are native to the Midwest. They’re also grown by Michiganians.
The curved garden beds are divided by pathways that will eventually be filled with crushed granite so visitors can walk through the garden and see it up close.
“Detroit has nothing like this,” said Duncan Campbell, one of the Oudolf Garden Detroit Grounds Crew who has been working on the project since the beginning.
The garden is about creating “moments” and evoking emotion, said Eischeid, a Chicago landscape designer who has worked on roughly 10 Oudolf projects in the United States.
“There are small