Ornamental Grass Garden in New Holland

Ornamental Grass Garden in New Holland

New Holland Island, Saint-Petersburg
Plot size
800 m²
  • New Holland Island

    New Holland Island in the Admiralteisky District of St. Petersburg originated during the reign of Peter the Great following the construction of two canals. The island initially housed warehouses for shipbuilding timber, tools and other trade essentials. In the second half of the 18th century, the wooden buildings were replaced with stone structures, creating a complete architectural ensemble in early Neoclassical style.

    During the Soviet period, New Holland was off limits and used as a naval storage site.

    In 2010, Millhouse began restoration works and, in 2016, the island was permanently opened to the public for the first time in 300 years. As well as an architectural heritage site, it now doubles as a unique park with restaurants, cafes, an education centre and wellness studios. New Holland also plays host to concerts, plays and temporary art installations.

    West 8’s Dutch office took charge of landscaping in the large-scale reinvention of New Holland. As part of the project, we were given the opportunity to design an ornamental grass garden, creating beds of grasses and perennials in New Perennials style.

    Our garden sits in an elongated plot of approximately 800m2, flanked by the Kuznya restaurant on one side and a busy children’s playground on the other. These facilities are separated by the garden, and simultaneously connected by the wide functional footpaths and a network of much smaller paths cutting through the site.

    In a nutshell

    The beds are mostly filled with grasses and perennials, absent of the flowers traditionally found in a garden. We selected plants that would thrive in St. Petersburg’s climate, look natural alongside grasses, retain their foliage and remain neat and tidy after flowering.

    To grasp the full scope of a garden design, it must be viewed from a distance. However visitors to New Holland will see it only in close-up which largely determined our concept: that the garden must be made up of varied plants of varying heights. As the garden is experienced section by section, it was important to create a unified form that is memorable and distinctive with vivid replication visible from different vantage points.

    The Garden

    The majority of the garden (by area and volume) is occupied by grasses ranging from 50 cm to 2 m in height.

    The taller grasses are visible from a distance and used as focal points while the shorter grasses are planted in the centre and along the paths.

    The design is dominated by tufted hairgrass, also known as tussock grass, which is planted in large clumps and grows in voluminous round tufts. In the month of June, clouds of tasselled heads emerge which remain impressive through to autumn.

    Sage, one of the most exquisite perennials, is the garden’s signature feature which runs through the beds like a distinctive thread. Large bushes of sage cannot help but make a colourful impression. Waves of the plant snake through the field of grass in various shades of violet-blue, blending with the ornamental grasses along the periphery and gradually dissolving inwards. These blurred lines maintain the general sense of naturalness.

    Sage comes into flower in early June and blooms for around two months. We have used four different species which flower at different times to extend the waves of colour. If looked after correctly, sage may flower a second time in late summer.

    Perennials abound among the ornamental grasses and in the waves of sage, some in large drifts and some in individual specks. The sprinkled colours break up the consistency of the main planting plan and soften the borders. They flower at different times and some blooms last longer than others – from a few weeks to two months. Small groups of flowering plants draw our gaze, some delicate and elegant and others vivid in their intensity.

    They have only a supporting role in the garden design but perennials are as irreplaceable as a talented actor playing a cameo. In the space of a fortnight, they noticeably transform the garden and after a month it looks like a whole new space.

    The grasses and perennials are complemented by various types of annual plants: purpletop vervain, white gaura and common fennel.

    Vervain grows rapidly with a lacy cap of bright purple blossoms from July until very late September. White gaura is ethereal and light while fennel gently defuses the pops of colour from neighbouring plants with its delicate yellow-green umbrellas.

    Introducing different annuals each year will keep the garden design fresh and new, just as the right accessories can completely change an outfit.

    Daffodils, tulips, fritillaries, decorative alliums and miniature flowering bulbs extend the ornamental aspect of the garden by almost a month: daffodils flower as the annuals are beginning to revive after winter; tulips and fritillaries bloom when the perennials and grasses are in full growth; and the alliums are in flower until mid-July. The tulips are bedded out each year.