A couple of weeks ago I became friends on Facebook with Wies Voesten. When I went to visit her page, I discovered her gorgeous garden, De Stekkentuin, and I asked her if she would mind if I shared it with all of you. She agreed, and sent me a veritable wealth of photos and information! She says, "We are living in the Noordoostpolder (Nordeastpolder), in Flevoland, in the Netherlands: 4 metres below sea level. 75 years ago Holland needed more agriculture land for food and so the government ordered to reclaim land from the big lake: IJsselmeer. First they put a dike in the water to protect the ‘new’ land, and later they pumped away all the water. Our parents were the first generation of people/farmers to live and to work here. The government owned the land, all the houses and farms: all the people who came to live here where choosen (!!), and rented/leased a house with a garden. It was hard work trying to make suitable agricultural- and also gardenland from what once was the bottom of the sea. Being a child we had to work on the field and in the garden. So the green (mostly dirty) fingers I inherited from my parents.
I was lucky to marry a farmer's son and we took over from my parents-in-law, including the garden. But it was not my kind of garden: everything was so straight, like the whole polder was. So after some years I told my husband, I would like to change the garden into a garden created by myself and with the plants, shrubs, and trees I like. Lucky me; he said it was a good plan and in spring 1985 he (and our tractor) helped me to clean up the place around the house. I started making my own garden with round forms and raised flowerbeds. People passing by stopped and told me I could not do this: in the Polder everything was straight and my future garden should be straight too. I was very cocky (I still am) and did what I wanted to do. So when the form was there, the garden was 2500 m² and I needed plants…………… neighbours, friends, family: everybody was bringing me cuttings, but oh my gosh, I knew nothing about plants, shrubs, and trees!! I just planted everything. But after 2 years I saw: this is not going to work. There was no structure in my garden. In 1985 there was no ‘google’ and so in winter I decided to get my information from the library and I took along all kinds of garden- and plantbooks. I believe my husband still regrets, he was letting me go to the library so often, because from that time I was infected with the plant- and gardenvirus.
During the years I learned myself all about gardening. Leaf shape, leaf structure, and leaf colour are very important to me, sometimes more important than flowers, because flowers only last 4 to 8 weeks and leaves are mostly beautiful for months. In thirty years I’ve been planting lots of plants, shrubs, and trees with wonderful red, grey, and variegated leaves. That way I’m trying to created a very colourful garden which is very attractive from early spring to November, even when it’s not blooming.
I did everything all by myself (sometimes with a little help from my husband): raised the flowerbeds, put the round winding stone paths through the flowerbeds, dug a pond to a depth of 1.50 metres (by hand) and planted all the the trees (when they were small), shrubs, and plants.
Because of the polderwind we’ve planted a lot of groundcovering plants in combination with strong, firm foliage-plants, like Anemone, Artemisia, Cimicifuga, Eupatorium, Helenium, Ligularia, Rodgersia, and Veratrum.
During the years the garden was crowded with plants and every spring I had to make cuttings. To me plants are living creatures: I can’t throw them away. So I decided to use the land next to the shed as a nursery: all the cuttings from the garden I planted in that land. Visitors can point out the plants they want and we dig them out with roots and a çlod of clay, put them in a plastic bag, and for little money they are able to plant a grown-up plant in their garden. The garden and nursery are now 4000 m² all together. The name ‘De Stekkentuin’ (‘The Cuttinggarden’) is because we started the garden with cuttings from other people, and now we have cuttings for other people. People are welcome to visit our garden from March to October: they can enjoy a lot of different plant collections in our garden." Wies, I'm in awe. I can't imagine the dedication, work, skill, and vision that went into this garden. You are incredible! And this is just the beginning! I'll post lots more from Wies tomorrow--both info and photos. Stay tuned!
Send in photos of YOUR garden, even if it's not as grand as Wies'. We want to see it all--tiny or huge, humble or glorious. It's all good! Michelle@GardenyGoodness.com. Thanks! -Michelle