On fer­tile ground Amid the wild, open land­scape of No­or­doost­polder in the

Un­der a big sky amid sweep­ing plains, Gold­hoorn is a richly planted gar­den on fer­tile land re­claimed from the sea

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents - WORDS ROMKE VAN DE KAA PHO­TO­GRAPHS SIETSKE DE VRIES

Elly Kloost­er­boer grew up not far from the gar­den, Gold­hoorn, she has cre­ated on her hus­band’s fam­ily farm. Her par­ents moved to this area called No­or­doost­polder in the early 1950s. Like many Dutch fam­i­lies, they came here to start a new life on land that had only been re­claimed from the sea in the 1930s. Her hus­band’s fam­ily were among the very first raft of set­tlers to this vir­gin land, and named their farm af­ter the area to the north from where they had come, namely Gold­hoorn.

No­or­doost­polder is big-sky coun­try: a flat, windswept plain, char­ac­terised by a grid of straight roads that cross one an­other at right an­gles – a bend in the road is un­heard of – out of which Gold­hoorn Gar­dens ap­pears like a mi­rage; in sum­mer an oa­sis of ram­bling roses and clema­tis among the fields of chicory and car­rots, and even in au­tumn burst­ing with imag­i­na­tive blends of colour.

Turn the page for Romke’s in­ter­view with Elly.

What in­spired your gar­den? I al­ways wanted to have a gar­den with a large pond, but my hus­band and I were too busy run­ning the farm to gar­den. When we stopped work­ing, I felt I could make a start. I knew noth­ing about plants or de­sign. All my in­spi­ra­tion came from books and mag­a­zines. Where did you be­gin? I started with the pond. There was enough room to make a large one. A dig­ger came and made a huge hole, which was lined with poly­thene. The rest of the gar­den grew or­gan­i­cally around the pond. Did you have any­thing else in mind? I had ro­man­tic vi­sions of walls over­flow­ing with clema­tis and ram­bling roses. But brick walls are ex­pen­sive. And walls don’t re­ally fit in with this wide-open land­scape. So in­stead I grow climbers against metal frames of a type that are made to form the skele­tons for re­in­forced con­crete. But first I needed wind­breaks to make gar­den­ing pos­si­ble at all. So was the wind your main chal­lenge? Yes, es­pe­cially the strong south­west­er­lies, but also the soil. But isn’t the soil here fa­mously fer­tile? It is, but it’s also very heavy clay that cracks in times of drought. We get fis­sures so wide you can park your bi­cy­cle in them. That makes any at­tempt at gar­den­ing fu­tile. Gar­den­ing here starts with im­prov­ing the soil. What about drain­ing or ir­ri­ga­tion? The wa­ter ta­ble of the area is man­aged ar­ti­fi­cially. And on this re­ten­tive soil I don’t have to wa­ter plants very of­ten. But of course roses and clema­tis like it moist, so I run a length of per­fo­rated hose along their roots.

How has the gar­den de­vel­oped? First of all I tack­led the front gar­den, which was not much more than a lawn with a few de­crepit conifers. I had some help from a pro­fes­sional gar­den de­signer there. Later on I went to col­lege and fol­lowed a course in gar­den­ing. I learned there were more trees avail­able than birches and alders, which is why you now see a Cer­cidi­phyl­lum and a Par­ro­tia in the gar­den. I also learned how to sub­di­vide a gar­den into sep­a­rate spa­ces, to cre­ate sur­prises round ev­ery cor­ner, and to make hid­den ar­eas on the out­side of the gar­den from where you look out­ward across the sur­round­ing fields. How did you de­fine th­ese sep­a­rate spa­ces? By us­ing a va­ri­ety of hedges, such as yew, beech and privet, as well as ivy grown on metal sup­ports. And by sur­round­ing parts of the gar­den by screens of roses and clema­tis. Do you also use paths? I do. At first I used ground bark for the paths; it was pretty, but not at all sat­is­fac­tory. Es­pe­cially once I opened to the pub­lic. Peo­ple com­plained about strain­ing their an­kles. Now I use a loam-coloured, finely ground stone. The paths are edged with heavy cubes of gran­ite sourced in Bel­gium. Do you have any favourite plants? I like to keep the gar­den at­trac­tive un­til the first frosts. I use late-flow­er­ing peren­ni­als, such as asters and se­dums, but I’m also fond of self-seed­ing an­nu­als, such as red-leaved Atriplex and Amaran­thus. And I love dahlias. You’re a gar­den de­signer your­self now. Do you have any ad­vice for be­gin­ners? Learn about your soil, and about how to im­prove it. My heavy clay has only be­come man­age­able with a heavy top­dress­ing of mush­room com­post each year. On sand you might need a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, but ev­ery­thing starts with the soil. Do you have any re­grets? If I were to make a pond again, I would sit­u­ate it in a place where I could en­joy it from my win­dow. Now I only see it when I go there and sit near it.

“I learned how to sub­di­vide a gar­den into sep­a­rate spa­ces, to cre­ate sur­prises round ev­ery cor­ner”


In brief Name Gold­hoorn Gar­dens. What Pri­vate Dutch gar­den di­vided by hedg­ing into ar­eas with rich plant­ing, strong struc­ture and a large, or­na­men­tal pond. Where Bant, No­or­doost­polder, the Nether­lands. Size 4,000 square me­tres. Cli­mate Tem­per­ate. Soil...

Above Elly Kloost­er­boer at work in her gar­den. Right In a curv­ing bor­der, au­tum­nal plants, in­clud­ing Kal­imeris in­cisa ‘Blue Star’, Aster x frikar­tii ‘Jungfrau’, Rud­beckia fulgida var. sul­li­van­tii ‘Gold­sturm’ and Hy­lotele­phium ‘Ma­trona’, pro­vide bold...

Grasses, in­clud­ing Pen­nise­tum alopecuroides and the tall Mis­cant­hus sinen­sis ‘Ferner Osten’, a cul­ti­var se­lected by Ernst Pagels, tum­ble over a nar­row path.

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