My special garden

Garden life. Romantic, rural or sustainable; a garden full of greenery and flowers is a feast for the eyes. These Windesheimers prefer to spend every day in their special garden.

‘We come from a tiled garden the size of a stamp’

Roselinde van den Berg lives in the green Assendorp in Zwolle. She is a scrum-master at IVT (Information Supply and Technology department) and likes to find peace in her large garden outside busy working days.

“When we bought this house three years ago, we didn’t know we had green fingers: we do everything without much experience. We come from a tiled garden the size of a stamp but now I love digging around in the garden. The previous occupant had bought half of the garden, but did nothing with it. It looked as if the lawn behind the house still belonged to the municipality. Now that we have attached the piece, our garden is about six hundred square meters. Enough space to let your creativity loose and we certainly did. Together with my husband and my children, I filled the garden with dozens of plants, a shipping container, a jacuzzi and some seating areas.

A wood chip path runs through the garden in which birds play and frogs swim in our pond. An invisible detail is that we have a thousand liter barrel under the parking lot to collect rainwater. Using tap water for the plants is not-done nowadays. We dug in part of the sea container and it now serves as a shed. The garden is surrounded by tall shrubs, which provide shade and privacy. The tranquility we have created is very important to us. Recently I have been getting my plants from Marktplaats, a second-hand web shop. That is much cheaper and also much more fun, because you come into contact with people who are also into gardening. I would like to buy a lot more, but my husband doesn’t allow that anymore. According to him, the garden is now really full.”

‘As if there is a sculpture in the garden’

Suzan Huijbers is a teacher in the Social Work programme and lives in Zwolle, on the edge of the city center. In her garden she has a food forest and a storage tank for water.

“Do you know the yacon, better known as the Peruvian ground apple? I think it will be in all supermarkets in a while. Large tubers will grow on it that you can eat. You can do anything with it: put it raw in a salad, cook or bake it like a potato, or you can even make carpaccio with it. They are very healthy and low in carbohydrates.

When we moved here six years ago, we first removed 18 cubic meters of concrete from the garden. It was a huge gravel pit with a big, deep pond, really gray and somber. We then made a garden plan with a gardener, we wanted to approach it responsibly. We now have a beautiful green garden with native plants, a wadi and a large underground storage tank to collect rainwater so that we can spray all summer without using tap water. Soon there will be another wildflower meadow on the roof of the shed, I am very much looking forward to the moment it is in bloom.

Together with someone who knows everything about permaculture, the harmonious integration of landscape and people, we have set up part of the garden as a food forest, with edible plants such as the honey berry, the bladder campion and the kiwi berry. I learned a lot from her, for example about which plants go well together, soil life and how to lay out a garden in a natural way.

The giant wild angelica is really the eye-catcher in our garden. It looks a bit like the cow parsnip. In the winter it completely becomes ‘wooden’, as if you have a sculpture in the back of your garden. Very cool!

In recent years we have been especially busy creating the garden. It is now more or less finished and because the garden does not actually require much maintenance, it is now mainly just enjoying it. I can sit here for hours, just observing, watching how everything grows, what happens under the weather conditions. For example, I see a lot of bees, butterflies and birds. While we are in the middle of the city! Special, isn’t it?”

‘A beautiful place to relax’

Heleen Vellekoop works at the teacher education programmes. She lives on Dwarsgracht, an idyllic place on the water near Giethoorn.

“I have lived with my husband for over twenty years in a small picturesque farmhouse on the water. To get to our yard you have to cross a drawbridge. The garden is not very big at all, but it is a beautiful place to relax. It’s a place where I like to sit, read and be with family and friends. Eating together or sitting around a fire in the evening. We have a beautiful view over the water, the meadows and the lake. And the light and the skies are magnificent. Since I live here I experience the seasons very consciously. We have ancient chestnut, apple and pear trees in the garden. When they bloom it is so terribly beautiful; on that old black, lumpy wood, such beautiful delicate blossoms will appear. It surprises me every year. Then come the common lilac and the rhododendron. Now the water lilies are starting to come up, they are really magical. I like to go swimming and kayaking from the garden, then you really get into the water between the flowers.

I sometimes bring experiences from the garden to my lessons. There is a very nice poem by Tjitske Jansen about a chestnut, it is called; ‘If only someone had picked me up’. That poem is about life, growth and development. I like to discuss it with students in class. Then I bring chestnuts from my chestnut tree and that invites me to talk about it. I really like to treat poetry from the perspective of nature. The elements in the garden lend themselves very well to a poem. Recently I wrote a haiku about the pear blossom:
O my pear tree
again grows the tender blossom
from your old bark”

‘A hummingbird, in the Netherlands?’

Stijntje Blankendaal is a teacher in the Journalism programme and lives in Zwolle, in the Westenholte district.

“When we bought this house in 2020 I had never really gardened in my life. We moved to Zwolle from São Paulo, where I worked as a correspondent. We ended up in a completely different world. There we lived on the top floor of a large flat, alongside a wide ‘avenida’ on a slope where the old diesel buses drove down with a lot of noise. When you stepped out of our apartment building you went into chaos. Here we walk into the garden and hear birds.

The garden was a tiled piece of land, so we took almost everything out. Harry Pierik, a well-known garden designer from Zwolle, laid out the garden for us. The starting point was as much greenery and space for nature as possible. He is very good at combining colors and heights and applying layers, resulting in a garden in which everything is intertwined and merges, so that at a certain point you no longer see what is what. I especially like the depth that he has managed to bring to it; very exciting and imaginative.

There are always flowers that are in bloom, well into winter. For example, I am currently enjoying the catnips. That is such a grateful plant, it will continue to bloom for months. And a lot of bees come to it, all day long you hear buzz buzz buzz. Once a hummingbird hawk-moth flew through the garden. Do you know what that is? It is a large moth, but really looks like a bird, with a kind of beak and eyes. I thought: what am I seeing now, a hummingbird, in the Netherlands?!

Our garden is of course still quite young, the wisteria, for example, has yet to bloom for the very first time. But that’s also the nice thing: you can grow with such a garden. People get older and get more and more wrinkles, but gardens only get more beautiful with age.”

Text: Wouter van Emst, Nynke Lautenbag en Reinhilde van Aalderen

Photos: Herman Engbers

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