Another one of my favourite stops while visiting the Netherlands, was the garden and nursery of Piet Oudolf. He had this unforgettable, high and multi-layered hedge at the front of his property behind which was his main garden. In the picture below, he is moving a clump of Monarda (Bee Balm).
He has since become a renowned garden designer with many projects, both public and private, in Europe and North America. You can see some of his very cool work and photography on Flickr and on his website.
Virginia Small recently listed his favourite perennials here. It is tellingly divided into three groups: plants the provide structure, produce attractive seed heads, and maintain a distinct winter shape. Ultimately, the goal is to provide an abundance of multi-season interest.
I find a few things however, interesting to note in this list. Firstly, most are relatively tall plants -- you will not find any "cute" Campanula carpatica or Dianthus here. Second, there is mix of both native and non-native species. And finally, the list appears to be missing the most popular genera, specifically Geranium, Heuchera and Hosta. I would certainly love to share a pint with this great artist to discuss this last point!
Well, here's to dirt under your nails -- I hear spring has sprung in certain parts of the continent.
Mark, the coolplantsguy