13 July 2012

A wide sky

A wide high sky filled with light and growing towers of cloud; water everywhere, holding and reflecting that sky. Where else could this be but the low lands, the Netherlands, a country shaped by water, by the relationship of its people to that water.  Zeeland: sands and muds coalescing to form islands, inhabited since before Roman times, home now to the Delta Works - a very Dutch phenomenon: let's hold back the water when and where we need to, but allow the tides to move as they need to. Can we do it? Of course! Just call in the engineers. Gelderland: more of that wonderful sky, snaking rivers, their curves and bends traced in high relief by the dykes, farmhouses nestling on their lee side. Horizons interrupted by the symmetry of trees. Cattle picturesque in the canal-bordered fields. These light-filled landscapes are somehow familiar even to foreigners as we've seen them so many times in paintings by Vermeer, van Ruisdael and others. Having seen them now in person I can say it's small wonder that the Dutch painters were inspired to become masters of catching that light.

Nowadays it's not just the trees, the windmills and distant spires that provide the vertical: ubiquitous pylons stand astride the planar landscape, carrying power to the over 16m inhabitants of that small country. The pressure of people and their needs means that farms abut roads, industry and towns in a way that they don't here in Ireland. The landscape is never empty, and its practical people leave their mark everywhere: glasshouses cover huge areas of land, tree nurseries make corduroy of the fields with lines and lines of saplings, and on the rivers and the roads there's a constant movement of cargo. Sitting out having dinner on the quayside in Nijmegen we saw countless barges (from Holland, Belgium, Germany) moving up and down the river.

Holland is a busy place.

Some respite from the busyness came in the nurseries and gardens we visited: de Hessenhof and de Boschhoeve, both in Gelderland. The first very much in the northern European tradition of combining grasses and perennials in naturalistic combinations (seen also, beautifully wrought, in the middle of Rotterdam at the Second World War Memorial), the latter more formal with different spaces and gardens bounded by immaculate hedges. Both of them extremely well ordered, as you might expect! There are pics below for those who are interested. And thanks to Michael in Mount Venus for recommending de Hessenhof to us; they had only good things to say about him. In other garden news, we saw some very typical Dutch gardens in some of the villages we visited - formally pollarded and pruned trees, small box hedges and shrubs (especially a spectacular creamy white large-flowered Hydrangea (or Hortensia, as they call it in Holland).

[A big thanks here to AMK and SM for letting us stay in their home in Holland, and for their splendid dog-sitting here in Dublin.]

Back home, my own garden looked, well, unkempt and very unordered... The weather hasn't helped - lots of perennials have blown over or are keeling over due to floppy growth and constant falls of rain, so I've just homed in on two details: a gorgeous lily that I've grown from bulbs this year - Lilium Hiawatha. It complements perfectly the deep red Dierama and Phygelius nearby. In a neighbouring pot, Lilium Cappucino is about to emerge and I think it will add to the picture nicely. Nearby, a tiny Sempervivum--that I pushed into a hole in a railway sleeper step a couple of years ago--has bloomed with beautiful symmetry. Oh, and it turns out that the pot of Dierama that I bought from June Blake a couple of years ago contained not one, not two but three varieties! A beautiful white one emerged in the last couple of weeks. Surely they're among the most graceful of plants that we can have in the garden?

I have to celebrate the successes as there's many a disappointment in the garden, the glasshouse and on the allotment this year - but that's the advantage of online: gardens (and life!) can be filtered as desired.

At home:

Lilium Hiawatha

Sempervivum blossoms

Another Dierama!
Low lie the fields:

Heading out for dinner, via the Maas

Food with a view - the scene beside our dining table at 21:00 on a warm evening,
Villa Augustus, Dordrecht

Rotterdam Second World War Memorial Park: swathes of perennials,
echoing the buildings across the Maas
Rotterdam Second World War Memorial Park: plants reflecting a different architecture nearby
For another view, click here

Formality on a small scale

de Hessenhof - the 'Mother Beds'

de Hessenhof - a lovely combination of Thalictrum, Centaura, Allium sphaerocephalon  and  Geranium

de Boschhoeve, formality on a larger scale

de Boschhoeve, kitchen garden

de Boschhoeve, colour

de Boschhoeve, Sanguisorba tenuifolia 'Alba"
(I want one of these, but didn't think I could get it home on the plane)

No comments:

Post a Comment