I live in a country called ‘Nederland’, the Netherlands. In France, they call it ‘les Pays-Bas’, the Low Countries. And it’s true, the landscape is mostly low and flat, with large parts of the country (ca. 26%) actually below sea level. Knowing this, would you believe I live on a mountain? The area around my neighbourhood has been called a mountain for centuries though it is really only 44 metres above sea level. This means it probably only qualifies as no more than a hill.
The mountain is one of the oldest districts in the city. It’s a green and beautiful area and the residents are very attached to the neighborhood where they live. We have a hotel called the mountain hotel, the church is called the mountain church, two schools are named after the mountain and there is even a garden called the small mountain.
This is Anneke’s garden, a former school teacher and self-taught gardener. Anneke became a widow while her children were still young. Years later she met her second husband and bought this house with him. Because they both had full-time jobs at the time and still wanted to be able to travel, they chose to create a low maintenance garden. They quickly agreed, no grass in the backyard! A match made in heaven.
When Anneke retired in 2006, she became serious about gardening. Reading magazines and books on gardening and visiting other gardens gave her ideas of plant combinations. She started to redesign her garden, one border at the time. At the moment, she is bringing more grasses into the garden, inspired by garden designer Piet Oudolf. A disadvantage to his designs, she feels, is that his gardens are at their best in late summer and autumn. To create a garden that has something of interest in it all year round she plants numerous bulbs every year. Last year, she and her gardening friend Marieke Nolsen, who’s garden I visited in spring, got a little carried away when visiting a bulb grower. Anneke planted more than 5000 bulbs! She loves the natural style of planting bulbs, as developed by Jacqueline van der Kloet, by scattering them around. I will have to visit her garden again in spring to see the flowering bulbs.
This is the time to put your bulbs into the garden, so if you need some inspiration, Jacqueline has written several books with ideas and tips for using bulbs in the garden.
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Her biggest inspiration, though, is Ton ter Linden, a painter and garden designer and another member of the Dutch Wave. Also known as the Dutch Monet, his gardens are characterized by natural, almost wild borders and bright painterly colours. Small groups of plants are mixed with grasses and weave through each other to create a meadow effect as if composed by nature itself.
Sadly, Ton ter Lindens garden is no longer open to the public. Anneke’s garden is, though! If you love your garden, it’s only natural to want to share it with others. This year, she received about 50 groups, mostly gardening clubs. As a teacher, she loves to share her knowledge of plants. Her goal is to enthuse people, to send them home with practical ideas for their own gardens and eager to start planting.
I asked Anneke for tips for people who are starting a garden for the very first time or looking to improve an existing garden, and here they are:
- Your garden should be a part of your home just like any other room in your house. Create a relationship between inside and outside. Anneke took the same tiles she used inside the house out into the garden, making the terrace an extension of the living room.
- Visit other people’s gardens for inspiration, you can learn so much. Look for attractive colour and plant combinations.
- Try to decide what kind of gardener you are, how much time do you want to spend weeding, deadheading, staking, pruning and mowing?
- Before you start planting, create a garden plan around colours.
- Don’t put your garden full of plants all at once. Visit a good plant nursery in every season to see what’s available at that time of year, to ensure that your garden is full of colour and interest year-round. Anneke recommends De Hessenhof or Marcel de Wagt.
Visiting Anneke’s garden did send me home with fresh inspiration, so thank you for your hospitality! If you would like to visit her garden next year, please find the details on the website.