Friday, January 29, 2016

Oudolf Tour - Leuvehaven

LeuvehavenHeader copy
Thank you for coming back for the next post about my Carex Tours trip to The Netherlands last autumn! Today, we look at The Leuvehaven, located in Rotterdam.

Located on a spit of land on the Nieuwe Maas River, this was to be our first Oudolf-designed garden on the trip...and...believe it or not, the first Oudolf-designed garden I had every seen in person!

As we got off the bus, we were confronted by the Merchant Marine Monument, which juts up into the air like the prow of a ship. Very imposing, right?

The monument if fronted by a mix of perennials, with a limited palette of Panicum, Calamagrostis brachytricha, Perovskia and Persicaria.

The refined palette gives the planting a very calming and harmonious feel...not to mention a very tactile one.

The wonderful, subdued colors are perfect...especially paired with the ephemeral blooms of the Calamagrostis.

Did I mention that it was POURING at this garden? It was...heavily!

Once past the initial strip of planting, there are several elevated beds, each triangular in shape, looking out over the river.

Soaring above everything is this fabulous bridge, the Erasmus bridge.

No bridge can really compete with the plantings, however, at least not to a gardener!

This is a relatively small garden, but, again, because of the limited plant selection, it doesn't feel like a crammed jumble. Most plants are used in generous swathes, each flowing seamlessly into the other.

While there is a wealth of contrasting textures, shapes and colors, it isn't overwrought...there is a relaxed dynamism to the combinations.

I think back on that day and this is my memory...trying to stay dry...while taking as many photos as possible. Obviously, for most people, staying dry trumps photos!

One of those plant combinations that we were to see again and again during our trip. Grasses and Asters...classic.

I'm not sure what it is about The Netherlands...but they can grow these larger Sedums to perfection.

If there is one plant that I will always associate with this garden, however, its in this forms misty clouds all around the garden.

It serves to perfectly soften the harder, more solid forms of so many plants, like this Sedum (probably 'Matrona').

And's the perfect, gauzy backdrop for the undulating spires of Salvia.

Did I mention it was raining?

I love how Oudolf seems to effortlessly create effects such as this...of plants flowing into and out of each other like water.

And how other plants spring up from lower-growing companions.

I kept thinking here, "I need more Asters,".

Such is the richness of Oudolf's gardens that we were all constantly discovering things...and pointing them out excitedly to others in the group!

"SIGH"...if only my 'Matrona' looked this good!

Thank goodness for did people look up plants before they were around?

As we climbed back onto the bus to head off into the city for lunch, I grabbed a few last photos. If you're ever in Rotterdam, you must visit this's utterly fabulous.

I hope you join me again next week for a look at the wonderful Vlinderhof Garden. Also...I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Carex Tours is repeating this tour again in 2016...details available here...if you can swing it, you should sign's worth every penny!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Oudolf Tour - Jac P. Thijsse Park

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This is the first in a series of posts that are long overdue, regarding my trip to The Netherlands this past autumn with Carolyn Mullett and Carex Tours.

Our first garden visited during our tour was the Jac P. Thijsse Park, which is named after a famed naturalist, but designed by Christiaan P. Broerse.

Located in Amstelveen, a part of the greater Amsterdam metro area, the park is a long, narrow strip of land, bisected by several bodies of water, surrounded by houses and businesses...very much an urban park.

While quite long, the width of the park varies considerably, I believe (if memory serves) that at its narrowest point, it is only about 10 meters wide! Amazingly, I would never have known's so cleverly (and thickly) planted, that you feel you are in the middle of a vast wild area.

The winding waterways create a sense of "island hopping" are constantly going across small bridges...the non-linear quality of the paths make the park seem much larger than it really is.

As luck would have was POURING rain at this point...and we actually had to wait under some trees for the deluge to let up a bit. Even with a rain coat and umbrella, I was soaked!

The entire area is mostly peat...and, as such, Heathers thrive here. They were astounding...growing so thickly and happily.

They completely blanketed the ground...what a glorious groundcover!

I need to find the name of this plant...I believe it was some sort of "swamp asphodel"...or something like that. The orange seed pods featured prominently all over the park.

Paired with the pink of the made for a striking combination.

The rolling nature of the topography was accentuated by the carpet of Heather.

To be honest, this area felt like it could have easily been in the PNW.

So many plants that I assumed needed shade were growing in full sun.

The entire park, while lushly planted, didn't feel overtly "garden-y". It felt more like enhanced nature...a managed and, perhaps, slightly idealized version of a natural landscape.

Everywhere you looked, there were patterns...but they didn't feel contrived or forced.

Instead, there was a pervasive sense of calm and serenity.

And while there were indeed a few pops of saturated color...

...the tones were mostly muted...making for a much more calming experience. This isn't a garden/park that shouts for's content to let you discover its charms slowly.

One thing of note, being on peaty ground meant that anytime we stepped off the path (accidentally, of course), the ground moved under us like a was fascinating...and slightly disturbing!

I can only imagine how wonderful it is for those who live nearby to be able to come to this park and feel utterly immersed in such beauty.

At every turns, there is another beautiful view.

And so I leave you with one more shot of the Jac P. Thijsse Park...I hope you enjoyed it...and if you're ever in Amsterdam, I highly recommend visiting it!

Up next, we visit the very first Oudolf-designed garden of our trip, the Leuvehaven in Rotterdam.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Snow Day in Portland!

snow day
Is there anything as magical as waking up to a surprise snowfall? No...there really isn't...and that's exactly what happened this past weekend in Portland.

snowy allium
I can thank my surprise on the fact that I just don't look at weather forecasts much during the winter. During the summer, I almost obsessively check forecasts...cursing the heat and praying for cool temps and (although mostly fruitless) rain. Portland winters are such non-events that I just enjoy them, for the most part.

snowy front blue
Snow is a rarity in Portland...and all indications going into this winter were that it would be a very dry, mild (boring) winter. As a result, I honestly didn't expect snow this year...but on Sunday, I woke up to flurries, much to my amazement. I figured that was probably all that would happen.

snowy blustery strip
As the morning wore on, however, the snow kept coming...and even better, started accumulating! I could hardly wait for it to be light enough that I could venture outside to take photos.

snowy allium
Very few things can so quickly transform a garden as snow does.

snowy monarda
All the plants stand out in stark contrast to the pure white blanket.

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The stark white both softens the garden and enhances its graphic nature.

snowy echinacea trio
Spiky seed heads pierce the pillowy softness.

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Even partially collapsed plants can be given new life by a coating of snow.

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All the seed heads that are still standing don jaunty little bonnets.

snowy sporobolus
Tufts of grasses erupt from the white stuff.

snowy vernonia
The fine branching and fluffy seedheads of Vernonia are even more apparent against a crisp, white background.

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The best thing about snow, however, may be the wonderful quiet that results from the fact that most streets are devoid of cars. It's amazing how peaceful it is outside without the constant noise of traffic.

snowy front garden 1
I hope if you're in Portland, that you enjoyed our rare snow day. I'll have a follow-up post soon about the day after...when the entire garden was coated in ice...if possible...rivaling the beauty of the snow that preceded it!