How long can it take to decide what to call a post about an incredibly influential Dutch garden designer? Ages, apparently. And I’ve discovered that if I don’t start with a title before I write anything else, it stuffs up the permalink system, and names it by a number.
Anyway, forget all that, and start reading here:
It seems odd to me, or at least notable, that a nation not known for its skill or interest in domestic gardening should turn out several highly influential designers. I’m talking of The Netherlands, and its line-up of people like Ton ter Linden, Piet Oudulf and Mien Ruys.
It’s Mien Ruys I want to dwell on for a bit. Let’s get pronunciation out of the way first. The best I can convey of the pronunciation of the amazingly dedicated staff at Tuinen Mien Ruys (the Mien Ruys Garden) is Mien pr. as ‘mean’, and Ruys, rhyming with grouse, with a fabulously exaggerated rolling of the ‘r’.
There’s just way too much inspiration in this garden to cover in a single post. I’m not even going to try. I won’t even mention how it came about – a quick google can provide that info. I’ll just stick to a few things that moved me most, and that I have good pics to illustrate.
Check out the use of really sharp geometry, as shown in the pic above. It may seem a little 90’s, but this is where all that late 20th Century design came from. The geometry isn’t only in the layout, but in the cubes/rectangular prisms of clipped plants. That makes for a great, strong matrix within which unruly/fluffy perennials can romp about in mid-summer without the whole thing turning to visual mush. The silhouettes of peasant’s bums are, by the way, of rusty iron.
I was also really intrigued by how often Mien Ruys would ‘imply’ an enclosed space with simple segments of hedge. It is like she only stated what was necessary and let your mind do the rest.
You might need to click on these images to enlarge them to see what I mean – hedges will often just fold around a corner and extend for a metre or two before petering out.
Possibly one of the most recognizable areas of the garden, as it has been so widely photographed is the deck/pond combo ie
Having seen images of this area over many years, I was really surprised to find that the decking is black recycled plastic – way ahead of it’s time. Likewise that fabulous ‘palisade’ fence in the background. Australian safety laws would probably require that we have a 1.2m balustrade around each of those squares of deck…
And finally, I was really taken with this perfectly circular space within natural forest. I’m just a little crazy about an idea that such a simple space illustrates – that our gut reaction to gardens is largely about the way we’re captured or held in a ‘shell’ of planting. 2-D photos can’t illustrate a 3-D principle, of course, and the result wasn’t brilliant, being too small for the height of the trees. My excitement was entirely from stumbling on an example of something that will always be confined to my imagination – entering a forest with a chainsaw, and carving for myself a series of perfectly proportioned spaces.
And just in case you’re one of those types that think that it isn’t a garden unless there’s flowers…