Three years ago I had the good fortune to be invited by a Dutch friend to visit her childhood home in Holland and tour some Dutch gardens.
At the top of my list were the gardens of one the twentieth century’s greatest landscape architects, Mein Ruys. Ruys died in 1999, but this being Holland her gardens have been beautifully preserved. Over seventy years on 6.18 acres she created thirty garden rooms. And while I had seen photos of the place nothing prepared me for the beauty of being there. Ruys’s use of strong architectural foundations: hedges and walls and paths – provide contrast to the looser softer plantings; a perfect balance of the controlled and the willful. Nearly twenty years after her death her gardens live on expressing an acute sense of design, her playfulness and daring. The Gardens Of Mien Ruys
Piet Oudolf designed the planting of the Highline in New York and the Laurie Gardens in Chicago. Loving both of these, I was excited to see what he had done at Hummelo, his own garden in the Netherlands. A Wild Idea -The Gardens of Piet Oudolf
Using many native North American meadow perennials and grasses over large prairie like spaces with backdrops of tall hedges, Oudolf has artfully tamed what would otherwise be wild and let what would usually considered tame to take on a haphazard wildness. His gardens are like mysterious memories; summer prairie where the designer/gardener has worked to make his touch lightly visible.
As with any really enriching garden experience this profusion of beauty caused me to reflect on my own garden; specifically what’s not working!
In hindsight three years after that trip, I can see the influence those two gardens have on my own garden.
After returning from the Netherlands I began to viciously edit my fourteen year old garden ripping out overgrown shrubs and exposing huge gaping holes. After this clever burst of gut like certainty the overriding feeling was one of panic! But over the following years I was given or bought perennials to fill those gaps, moved things to different spots and waited. This year, perhaps for the first time, I really like my garden.
As any gardener knows a garden is never static and I will continue to make changes as plants mature, but I am closer now, much closer, to the vision in my head. Watch this space! (More beautiful Dutch Gardens) Dutch gardens