Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Oudolf Tour - Vlinderhof: Part 1

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Welcome back to the next post on my series covering my trip last fall with Carolyn Mullett & Carex Tours, visiting gardens designed or inspired by Piet Oudolf. Today we look at a truly spectacular garden, Vlinderhof.

You may have noticed my sneaky little hint in the name of this post...yeah...this is a 2-parter...I just had way too many photos and the original post started to resemble the garden version of War & Peace...so I split it into 2 posts to avoid horticultural overload.

The name “Vlinderhof” loosely translates to “Butterfly Garden”, reflecting the desire for the garden to be a draw for wildlife as well as people.

As you enter the large park that contains this garden, the first thing you notice (you can't really help it) is the large, sculptural "pergola" which runs throughout the park and defines the spaces. I'm honestly not sure if pergola is the right word...then again...I'm not sure what word I'd use to describe it! Either way, I kind of love it.

Designed by West 8, the pergola is obviously inspired by the geometry of a honeycomb, some areas are actually filled with nesting materials for various insects and other wildlife.

I can honestly say that words do not do this garden justice...indeed, neither do photos...to be immersed in it will take your breath away.

The story behind how this garden came to be is also of note. Several years ago, in 2013, resident Marc Kikkert, hatched a plan for a piece of unused land in a nearby park (Maxima Park).

A long-time fan of Piet Oudolf's work, Kikkert spearheaded the effort to secure the land from the city of Utrect and hire Oudolf to design the plantings.

In October of that year, they laid out the first paths, and hedges were planted, according to Oudolf's design.

In the spring of 2014, trees, shrubs and perennials were planted (again, all using volunteer labor).

In May of that year, Vlinderhof opened to all in the neighborhood. Believe it or not...there is no admission fee to enter. Like the rest of the park, it is open to the public, free of charge!

Can you imagine being able to just visit this garden, any time you wanted, for FREE!

We were lucky enough, on our visit, to get to meet Marc and several other volunteers...and it was truly humbling to talk to them, considering what they had accomplished...and the enormity of the task they'd taken on.

This entire garden is completely maintained by a volunteer staff of area residents...which amazes me. I found myself wondering if such a feat would be possible in Portland.

I also couldn't believe that the garden was only a little over 1 year old when we visited...it looked so well established...I would have guessed it was at least 3-5 years old (if not older)!

It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that this is essentially a public park...there's just nothing like it in my area - a free, public area focused on the beauty of plants. I kept imagining transporting it to Portland and how amazing that would be.

It's hard to stroll for long without pausing to admire the sheer horticultural sophistication at play here.

The level of complexity and interest is so far beyond what is typical in most public spaces.

I imagine that the benches are used...but I don't think I could ever sit still in this space...there is far too much to explore!

As with so many gardens in the Netherlands, we all came upon plants that we'd only read about in books...like this Succisa pratensis, which goes by the name "Devil's Bit Scabious"...one time that common names certainly trump the botanical one ;-)

I had never seen it in person...it was amazing...and huge! Sadly, I think it would want a moister soil than what I could provide.

Like all truly great gardens, however, Vlinderhof is more than the sum of its parts.

It is a rich and glorious tapestry of structure, color and texture.

While so many public spaces tend to feel static and rigid, this is a garden in the truest sense, full of life, color and movement.

I can well imagine how wonderful it is to visit at different times of the year, to see the transformation from season-to-season.

I'll leave you here for now, knowing that there is another entire post of photos for this fabulous garden to follow.

Once again, my hat is off to Marc and his army of volunteers...it goes to show just what a dedicated group of people can accomplish if they set their minds to it!

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