This Tuesday’s Terrace is a place to be pensive, a place where good memories are created and linger. From the pots displayed on the steps, all the way into the woods beyond, your eyes and mind are free to wander as far back as you wish them to. – James
Every year it happens, it’s a seasonal, cyclical, and mental shift occurring earlier or later outside of our control. Time flies by, with spring swirling into summer, too entranced by the beauty of the garden to stop and breathe. The early seasons are extroverts, flaunting us with blossoms who boast with color or scent, parading past us day after day. It’s happening already here in Holland, the chill of autumn has seeped through the boundaries of the garden, with each morning met through a shroud of fog and green Parthenocissus foliage already tinged red. It is impossible to ignore the shift between these two seasons, plants begin to slow down, the work load lightens and the atmosphere becomes moody, making the same garden full of a new set of emotions. The introspective seasons have started their approach and have turned DeWiersse into a foreign film, as a voyeur I watch the details change rapidly in front of my eyes, with nothing left to do except accept it. In a few weeks I leave my favorite garden for the second time in my life, already prepping for the last day I have to spend in this paradise. We can’t slow the shifting of time, but finding the beauty in these changes makes it more beautiful. – James
There is no other place that I go to where I feel as motivated as I do when I am at DeWiersse, it recharges my creativity to full capacity. It is a difficult balance but I manage as best as I can, all of the sketching, photography, gardening, and arranging. It a great pleasure to be in such a beautiful environment that I find it hard to sit still, there is too much to do, to see, to enjoy. I drink it all up like a dry sponge and try to capture as much as I can in my sketchbooks. I alternate my materials between pen, pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor but the subject is always the same, the breathtaking beauty of DeWiersse and the surrounding Dutch countryside. I would happily spend the rest of my life filling up books with these scenes if it were up to me. Enjoy the journey of the garden through sketches… – James
They have always been the romantic idyll of summer, evoking visions of blanket picnic lunches in the sun or maybe under the shade of a mature tree, beautifully marked butterflies erratically making there way to a destination, the sun casting a glow on all the flower colors dotted throughout with grasses swaying gently in a warm summer zephyr, causing that soothing rustling sound that makes you feel like time is standing still. Meadows are always a breathtaking sight, whether created by man or in a field taken back by nature’s own hand, we have no say in how things play out in this theater.
Meadows are the free-spirited child of the gardening world and we admire them because we can try to guide and coax them but they do what they want, as they please. We can add ingredients to the meadow but how the recipe turns out is always a surprise. What flowers will end up where? And next to whom? We relinquish control and give in to those seasonal vignettes of chaos, a true pleasurable experience, which in the end is always an admirable result.
Meadows are always at their best in poor soil, with plants reaching maximum potential sans nutrients and fertilizer. It is what is, and I like the mystery in that, nature knows best. Through the season they move through different phases visually and there is one plant that has a part in this equation. This plant is a true workhorse in this environment and is known by the name Hay Rattle, Yellow Rattle, or it’s Latin name Rhinanthus minor. I first saw this plant in the Great Dixter meadows years ago and have been a fan ever since, it is because of this plant that doors open for the possibility of a more diverse mix of plants in the meadow.
This annual, which flowers from May to August, is native to Europe and Western Asia and is commonly found throughout fields, grasslands and roadsides. With its innocent looking yellow blooms and serrated leaves, this plant does is it’s work on the sly, by parasitizing surrounding grasses growing around it in the meadow.
Underneath the soil, the roots of Hay Rattle steal the nutrients from the roots of grasses, slowing down their vigorous growth enough that other plants have the chance to establish themselves and grow without getting pushed out . Grasses can grow at such a quick rate, easily out-competing other plants trying to grow in the meadow, easily taking over, with the end result being a less diverse plant mix. Rhinanthus minor changes that, holding the door open for all the other blooms you might see flowering alongside it, and is by far, the most superior plant in the meadow. How can a plant that does such good not be anything but loved?
Since speaking last, I have traded “¡Olé!” for allées and taken some time away from Spain to visit friends in the Netherlands, in a garden that has had so much influence on me. A few years ago, I spent some time here as a student and found the garden to have a large impact on my way of thinking about, experiencing, and approaching garden design. (This is where I read Sylvia Crowe’s book on garden design, which I was able to experience her ideas while walking around here.) DeWiersse has been in the same family and managed since 1678, so over the course of time, the gardens have been tweaked to a point of exquisite beauty while still remaining very much alive and loved. DeWiersse is in the eastern most part of Holland and is both a garden of 38 acres with a landscape park of 74 acres and has a moated manor house that lies at it’s heart. The garden is made up of many different areas including meadows, wild gardens, topiary, a formal rose garden, a large kitchen garden, allées and a sunken garden.
Typical of a Dutch style, parts of the more formal garden close to the house are enclosed within hedges of clipped Yew and while heading further away from the house, the style becomes more loose and fluid as it turns to wild garden and woodland, eventually blurring the lines between private garden and the existing farmland that lies beyond its boundaries. No detail is overlooked, which is what helps make DeWiersse a treasured experience but I will explain more as time goes on, giving attention to what makes these details so special.
I will leave you now with images, in the order of a stroll through the garden , of what is happening now, a visual teaser of sorts, a horticultural hors d’oeuvre to appease the appetite. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the cutting garden is calling my name….. Wishing you well….. -James
Fagus sylvatica, and all 95 meters of its serpentine tunnel. A smile is always necessary while walking through here, amazed at the incredible horticultural skills displayed, not only inviting you to look, but to engage in the marvel that it is. It is a feast not just for the eyes, but an exercise for all the senses.
Traditions regularly weave their way through our lives, being passed from one generation to another without written instruction, following what those have done for ages before us. Some of these we enjoy, others not so much. One beautiful Dutch tradition takes place on birthdays and is usually orchestrated by your immediate family members. On their birthday, the person is celebrated with their very own flower chair, when it is tradition that the family decorates a chair with seasonal flowers, paper streamers, paper flowers and balloons. It is customary in my friends’ family to use fresh flowers only, taken, of course, from their very own cutting garden. I had a hand in helping to continue this celebration once, first harvesting any blooms we wanted to use from the garden, keeping in mind to choose flowers that have longevity and that would not wilt immediately or stain clothing. To create the chair a base of grapevines, sans leaves, were weaved through the frame of the chair, which was used as the anchor for the rest of the blooms and foliage that were to follow. The more densely packed the chair became, the easier it was to insert more flowers, from annuals to perennials, grasses and foliage, we piled it on, barely leaving a place to sit. Once finished there was no denying the smiles this seat elicited from the birthday girl and the others in this wonderful Dutch celebration. Gelukkige verjaardag!