Piet Oudolf Goes to Burger King

OK, maybe Piet Oudolf didn’t design the landscaping around my local Burger King.

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Still, I was pretty impressed to see this fast food restaurant surrounded by tall native grasses, mainly two varieties of Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). The taller one, I’d guess, is ‘Northwind’.

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If memory serves, these plants were installed last year, so they are not yet fully grown in. Wood chip mulch covers the area between plants.

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If you use the drive through, you’ll see more grasses, landscape roses, and what looks like ‘Purple Dome’ New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).

Grasses along the west side of the lot.
Grasses along the west side of the lot.

I guess we can take this as a sign that the New Perennials style championed by Oudolf and others has penetrated pretty far into mainstream consciousness. Certainly, I’m noticing this kind of landscaping more frequently. Some might argue it is becoming so commonplace as to be boring.

More grasses on the south side of the property.
More grasses on the south side of the property.

Not in my opinion, however. Just because something becomes common does not make it less appealing. (This is why I like Marigolds.) Moreover, this style is something that keeps evolving. I think it will continue to have new things to offer for the foreseeable future.

But if Burger King is landscaping with Switchgrass, if Switchgrass becomes a standard sort of landscaping, replacing strips of lawn and some kind of low evergreen hedges – I’m happy with that.

I’m linking this post to Wednesday Vignette, a meme hosted by Anna at Flutter and Hum. Follow the lead for more garden vignettes.

61 Comments on “Piet Oudolf Goes to Burger King

  1. I love all the shots with the sign in the background, because the colors match the switchgrass. I wonder — do other people ever notice the landscaping around places like Burger King? Or is it just obsessed gardeners?

  2. Definitely some very conscious effort was made there – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fast food restaurant with such attractive landscaping. Our neighbourhood MacDonald’s has large concrete planters that they plant masses of petunias, marigolds, and geraniums in every year, but most fast food places here don’t bother with any sort of plantings. It’s all pavement. Sad….

    • You would think a grasses-based landscape would be a lot easier and cheaper to maintain than beds of annuals. Not that I have anything against colorful annuals.

  3. I noticed there was some very good municipal planting in various places when I was in the States in July. Grand Junction was incredible with mostly native planting and drought Tolerant plants, I was impressed; beats this part of Italy where the concept of using the correct plants for the situation is unheard of.

    • I noticed the same thing while we were in Annapolis. The popularity of grasses seems to be really spreading. This look would once have been considered weedy.

  4. Native plants are gorgeous and good for the environment. I designed an all native plant garden, consisting of mostly Prairie Drop Seed, Switch Grass,Purple Coneflower, Showy Black-eyed Susan, Blazing Star, Shrubby Potentilla, and Gro-low Sumac for my son’s gas station 10 years ago. Glad it’s catching on.

  5. This creative landscaping hasn’t yet reached fast food venues in my neck of the woods. Love the light playing on the switchgrass.

  6. To borrow from Sheryl at Flowery Prose: “I’ve never seen such attractive plantings at a fast food restaurant.” Me, neither! Perhaps your Burger King will provide an example for other Burger Kings.

  7. Jason, in what seems like a prior lifetime, I ran a number of Burger Kings as general manager and district manager. The store manager typically had a lot of leeway as to what they planted around the store. I typically went for brights– reds and yellows. Lots of times it came down to budget . I had one restaurant where I had planted 1000 red Apeldoorn tulips. Plantings usually have to be low maintenance, non-allergenic, no thorns, low-growing (for security reasons), etc. There is wiggle room for restaurants with managers who might also be gardeners…

    • I find it hard to imagine you as a fast food executive, Rachelle. I think from a cost standpoint this planting should make a lot of sense. It’s pretty low maintenance and long lived. Incidentally, could you drop a word in the right ear about bringing back those chicken parmesan sandwiches? I kind of liked those.

  8. How refreshing! I’m with you – I’d be happy with grasses moving into the top spot. Endlessly much better than the sad-looking Nandinas we so often see here. Such a ubiquitous contractor plant in these parts!

  9. I’d love it if grasses became ubiquitous in landscape design. Done well, like this example, they are a welcome change from the sad, whacked shrubbery we often see around drive-through fast food restaurants. I’ve started to see them used in commercial designs around Portland. It’s a heartening development!

  10. Heartening to see a gardener sensibility seeping into unexpected outposts of our culture. I’m with you: this kind of beauty can never be overdone.

  11. Wow, Burger King is looking very trendy! I love the photographs….and I agree with Dodgerdudette!

  12. I’ve noticed some positive trends around here, too. Still a long way to go, but at least landscapers and homeowners seem a little more aware than in the past. I really like the Asters with the grasses.

  13. Interesting…. I hope this idea will catch on here too, instead of rows of marigolds and busy lizzies in parks and verges! I have just started reading a book about a German gardener who emigrated to the US in the fities I think, and started to change American gardens by using native grasses. Have you heard of Wolfgang Oehme? I’ll review the book some time this winter.

    • Yes, he is very well know here. He was part of a landscape design firm called Oehme Van Sweden, and did a number of well known projects.

  14. I think native grasses have caught on…I saw some grasses, backed by bottlebrush bushes in a shopping centre car park. recently……I don’t know if they have always been there, or I’m just noticing so much more since I started reading blogs!

  15. Ha, I had to read this post when the title showed up on my sidebar:) I notice the plantings around various businesses, too, and it makes me happy to see some subtle changes from the ubiquitous Knockout roses and Stella daylilies.

  16. I love the title of this post. One of our local Burger Kings recently relandscaped with a fetching combination of purple pansies and about 70 one gallon gold mob cypress, all planted about 2′ apart in a long strip no more than 2′ wide. They must have no idea how big those cypress grow.

  17. Hello Jason, I don’t think this is boring either, it’s certainly much better than the typical cotoneaster, photinia or laurel hedges that are in car parks over here, I couldn’t think of anything less imaginative even if I tried.

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