Born and raised in Karl-Marx-Stadt (formerly Chemnitz), Germany, Oehme trained as a gardener at the Illge Nursery and worked in his teens and early twenties at the Bitterfeld Parks and Cemeteries Department. His mentors in Europe were Hans-Joachim Bauer and the well-known gardener and plantsman Karl Foerster. Oehme studied landscape architecture at the University of Berlin’s Advanced School of Garden Design, graduating in 1954. After working at a nursery near London and as a planner in Frankfurt, he moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1957, where he worked for the Baltimore County Department of Parks. Oehme practiced landscape architecture independently between 1966 and 1974, and in 1975 he partnered with James van Sweden.
Oehme co-authored The Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses (1992, with John Greenlee and Derek Fell).His life and work are documented in Stefan Leppert’s Ornamental Grasses: Wolfgang Oehme and the New American Garden (2009). Oehme taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Georgia, and was aFellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. His many awards include the Landscape Design Award from the American Horticultural Society in 1992, and the George Robert White Medal of Honor in 2002. Oehme retired from OvS and started WOCO Organic Gardens with Carol Oppenheimer in 2008.