Last summer students of the Master track Landscape Architecture of the TU Delft could follow a summer course in the Tuinen Mien Ruys in Dedemsvaart, made possible by a generous subsidy of the NHBos Foundation. It was a hands-on workshop in a real life situation addressing the practical skill of planting design, a basic skill for any landscape architect. We thought it wise to start at the smallest scale: the design of a border. The students experimented with different angles to approach this topic, playfully gaining knowledge of the formal, technical and biological aspects of plant species, which can be used in different circumstances.
The Tuinen Mien Ruys – a lifetime’s work of Mien Ruys, one of the most important garden architects in the 20th century – contain 30 gardens with experiments in design, plants and materials, presenting an overview of garden architecture from 1924 to the present day. The location was chosen because here the students could both study planting design in real life, and create a design that could be executed in situ, working back and forth between studying real situations and own design experiments.
Early July, with a nearby campsite as base, eight students came together and worked for an intensive week, studying plants, planting combinations and compositions, under the guidance of both teachers of the TU Delft – Frits van Loon, Nico Tillie and Saskia de Wit – and a garden expert from the Tuinen – Conny den Hollander. Each day had the same structure, thus gaining a step-by-step insight in the characteristics and behaviour of plants and planting compositions: a guided tour with a different theme, studying and drawing existing situations of plant combinations, experimenting with new plant combinations. At the end of the week each student had made a full planting plan, of which one was chosen for execution. The chosen design, made by Pierre Oskam, gives a nice twist to the classical border, built up from low to high. Interestingly, the starting point is the movement of pedestrians.
Molinia caerulea ‘Moorhexe’ with Potentilla x hopwoodiana, Crocosmia masoniorum, Thalictrum delavayi
Three months later we returned to the gardens, armed with boots, gloves and rainproof clothes, in order to execute the chosen design. This was supervised by Marjolijn Storm, a young gardener in training from nearby AOC De Groene Welle, who was learning how to supervise a gardener’s team. The ground had been dug prior to the execution, and then dug for a second time, in order to give a malleable, weed-free plant base. Marjolijn had already marked the areas with rope, and the plants were waiting for us, lined up in neat boxes. All we had to do was space them out, put them in the soil, and then rake over and over again.
So now we have a TU experimental border in Dedemsvaart, still looking young and fragile, and we can’t wait for it to grow. The gardeners of the Tuinen Mien Ruys will maintain the garden for the next couple of years. Who knows, when we return 2 years from now, we will find Pierres drawing in real life…