Born and raised in Chemnitz, now Karl-Marx-Stadt, Germany, later moving to Bitterfeld, Oehme attended the Bitterfeld Horticultural School and studied landscape architecture at the University of Berlin, graduating in 1954.
Following his education he worked for the Bitterfeld Parks and Cemeteries Department where he met landscape architect Hans-Joachim Bauer. Bauer connected him with gardener Karl Foerster, who became a mentor and who greatly influenced Oehme’s education and planting design.
In 1957 Oehme moved to the United States. He worked for the Baltimore County Department of Parks and practiced independently before founding a partnership with James van Sweden in 1977. Together they built a successful practice, creating a style that became known as the “New American Garden” - one that celebrated the full cycle of bloom, combining large scale drifts of grasses, and fields of herbaceous perennials. His lifelong interest in plants, beginning with his association with Karl Foerster, contributed to a successful career as a plantsman and designer.
Oehme van Sweden went on to do hundreds of residential projects, public parks, and gardens across the country and many important commissions in Washington, D.C., including the Federal Reserve Garden, the German-American Friendship Garden, the International Center, and The New American Garden at the National Arboretum.