Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Garden Frozen in Time

This time we are going to make a journey through time, to one of the most famous of Dutch gardens; the gardens of palace Het Loo (pronounced Het Low) near Apeldoorn. It may sound like an odd name but the old fashioned word loo means an open space in the woods and as such it's a very apt name.

Het Loo is not a very big palace, as palaces go, and its gardens are not all that big either in comparison to those of Versailles, France. But its waterworks were at that time, the 17th century, the best in Europe with one fountain (De Koningssprong) reaching as high as 13 meters. In 1984 the palace and its gardens were painstakingly restored to their former 17th century Baroque glory.
Come on, don't be frightened, take my hand and let's jump back in time to the 17th century.
In 1684 William III bought an old castle, Het Oude Loo (The Old Loo) that dates back to the Middle Ages. From 1684 to 1686 a new hunting lodge was built there for him and his English wife Mary II. In those days they didn't only dress to impress but also built and gardened to impress the heck out of everybody else. It's a thing!
Looking at the gardens you see that, grouped around the central axis are the parterres broderie, and the box is shaped in such a way that it resembles intricate embroidery (broderie in French).
Het Loo is situated right in the middle of an enormous forest (see, the name does make sense) which makes the contrast between nature and these formal gardens all that more pronounced. The gardens of Het Loo are formal, extremely formal, everything is pruned, clipped, constrained, prodded and ordered within an inch of its life to show the dominance of man (and in particularly this man William III) over nature. At that time nature was seen as something very dangerous and hostile, not surprisingly as death lurked around every corner. They didn't have antibiotics then, so the mere prick of a thorn could be the death of you.
In the Rabatten (ribbon beds) the plants are on display, literally. They are part of the plant exhibition that changes with every season. The point was to show off each and every individual plant. Borders, as we know them now, they most certainly are not.
To the modern eye everything looks over the top, kitsch and brass but this is in the Baroque style and was meant to very ornate.
There is a lot of hard landscaping at Het Loo; fountains, rills, statues, canals, gilded figures, two orbs, arbours, stone walls, paths, urns and so on. Here are a few of them:
Walking around these gardens is both wonderful and weird. The wonderful part is obvious, but it's weird because everything looks so new. This is done on purpose; as soon as a plant gets too big it is replaced by a smaller specimen to keep the garden looking brand spanking new. Visiting the gardens of Het Loo is like taking a trip in a time machine transporting you back to the year 1700 when the gardens were completed but absolutely new. So today we can see the garden, frozen in time, in the same way the original owners, William and Mary, saw them. A very unusual and delightful treat!
My favourite part of the gardens is the Queen's garden, especially designed for Queen Mary II. In her garden you'll find big containers with orange trees, symbolizing the Dutch Royal House of Orange into which she had married.
And then there are the Berceaux, designed for the Queen and her Ladies in Waiting to walk in, keeping theirs skins lily white (that was all the rage then) and affording them some privacy too.
I love walking in the Berceaux, the light is a wonderful fresh green as it falls through the leaves of the hornbeams.
It's like being inside an aquarium where the water has turned a lovely spring green. And they are not just an ordinary Berceaux, they are ones with a view.
With many views in fact, as windows are cut out at regular intervals.

If you ever go to the Netherlands, forget Amsterdam, do yourself a big favour and go visit the gardens and palace of Het Loo. The palace alone is worth a visit, here's a sneak preview.
The front door
One of its many rooms open to visitors.

You now have at least some idea of how gorgeous those gardens of Het Loo are. In reality they are much more beautiful of course, these pictures do not do them justice, but it was the best I could do.
It's time to go back to the 21st century I'm afraid, I hope you had a lovely journey through time with me.

copyright 2008 Y.E.W. Heuzen

As the poet said, 'only God can make a tree,' probably because it is so hard to figure out how to get the bark on.
Woody Allen

Monday, March 24, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White

Easter!!! Well, not really but it happened anyway.
This is the sight that greeted me this morning when I woke up. Snow on Second Easter Day, not something that happens very often around here. So I got out of bed, put on my wellies and went into the garden to snap some pics. We had not had any snow this winter but we're having some now. Not a very thick layer as you can see here, but snow nevertheless. Nowadays it's very rare that we have snow in the Netherlands, so for me this is a very special treat.
But it was not only snow that had fallen during the night, there had been some hail as well.
And some light frost too.
But when I was out and about in the garden earlier this morning I could hear the drip drip drip of melting snow and hail already. The sun was out
and the temperature had risen to plus 3.2 C, which is well above the freezing point of water at 0 C. So if I wanted to take some pics of my garden covered in snow I had to be quick about it as it was fast melting away.
The birdbath bed looks like this now but a few days ago it looked like this (pic below).
Quite a difference, wouldn't you say?
Remember this hellebore bloom extravaganza? Well take a good look at how it looks now.
And here's a close up.
My cheerful daffodowndillies where laughing their heads off only yesterday but look at how they are not laughing now, poor things.
Let's go into the kitchen garden to see how it is doing today.
It does look pretty like this, all covered in white, don't you think?
This is how the snow looks from the inside of the Victorian greenhouse. Outside it was 3.2 C but inside the unheated greenhouse it was 6 C and all my seedlings were fine.
My new poly tunnel was holding up alright too and so where the daffodils in the potager as they look only slightly the worse for wear.
My newly transplanted forget-me-nots, bravely blooming on
and the chives are OK as well, the snow doesn't seem to bother them at all. It's amazing how strong that frail looking herb actually is.
My rhubarb forcing pot looks pretty wearing its new white hat and the stems of rhubarb look very red against all that white.
My new weather station is telling me that snow has fallen, in case I missed it somehow.
And my namesakes, the lovely Violets, are doing fine as the snow is melting away and their cheerful faces are shining through.Where would we be without our friends the violets and pansies to cheer our gardens up at this time of year?
Before I sign off I want to wish all my Dutch garden blogger friends a Happy Second Easter Day! For the non-Dutch among you: in the Netherlands we usually have 2 of all good things such as 2 Christmas Days, 2 Easter Days and 2 Whitsun Days as well. It's a thing! :-)

While I'm writing this the sky has darkened, the sun has disappeared and it's starting to hail and snow again while a thunder storm is slowly heading this way. Wasn't it supposed to be Spring now?

copyright 2008 Y.E.W. Heuzen

Pasen in maart, is niks waard.

Wenn's am Ostertag auch regnet am wingsten, so regnet's alle Sonntag bis Pfingsten.

Help us to be the always hopeful
Gardeners of the Spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light
Nothing flowers.
Mary Sarton, 'Invocation to Kali'.