by James McGrath
James McGrath studied fine arts in NYC and horticulture at Longwood Gardens and has worked in gardens in the U.S., England, Israel, the Netherlands and currently Spain. His passion took him to garden at Great Dixter, Gravetye Manor, DeWiersse and the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony as the head horticulturist. He also draws, photographs and writes about gardens. His work can be found at www.selvaspina.com.
“There is no better garden than one with passionate owners, whose continuous spirit clearly reverberates throughout the character of the place; this is the case of my favorite garden DeWiersse, in the Netherlands.
Sitting in the Achterhoek region lives a garden that has been gently coaxed by the same family since 1678. A moated manor house, built in the 17th and early 18th century on medieval foundations, sits at the heart of the estate. From inside the country house views and vistas were created to draw the eye outside into the gardens, which radiate away from the house progressing from formal to informal. The estate reaches 300 hectares and has been guided with passion and continuity through centuries to an exceptional point, while maintaining current and youthful. By harnessing a few elements of nature, a strong atmosphere was carved here – using light, lay of the land, perspective and views.
Close to the house the formal gardens include a rose garden, designed and planted by a family member in 1912, when she was 17. A crisply sheared backdrop of Taxus hedges envelops a sunk garden consisting of colorful mixed borders. Crossing over the outer moat the gardens relax and become more informal with meadow, ponds, and a wild garden inspired by William Robinson. Tucked behind a hornbeam hedge at the far edge of the garden is a well-stocked kitchen garden, which has a hand in providing fresh fruit, vegetables and cut flowers for the house. As you walk throughout the gardens, fluctuations occur between areas from light to dark and confined to open spaces providing soft transition in the garden, successfully transmitting a sense of calm and introspection.
It is a place I return to often, both physically and in my mind, and I always leave feeling as if time was spent in a secret paradise. It is unique because it is a garden that whispers instead of shouts, where the slowest form of theater plays out gracefully. DeWiersse is a garden as rich in its history as it is in its beauty."