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Garden Ideas from Appletern Garden Festival, Holland


Photo: Robin Powell

Ideas by the barrowload


Visiting Appletern is like having your favourite garden magazine come to life. Around every corner of this vast garden showcase in Holland is a new page offering great ideas for your own garden: design, plants, planting combinations, paving options, sculpture, furniture and more.


Appletern is a 23-hectare park featuring more than 200 model gardens. That makes it a beautiful place to wander about, but the bigger idea is that the gardens are not just pleasant but life-changing! The garden designs fulfil a mission to provide inspiration for how home gardeners can make their own gardens better fulfil their dreams of outdoor living. The gardens attempt to cover all the themes of modern living, from outdoor eating to outdoor showering, from places of serenity to places of excitement, from super low-maintenance to high-end care. The gardens include examples by some of the masters of Dutch garden design, such as Piet Oudolf, Ton ter Linden and Monique Marcelis. The Ross travellers who visited last northern spring were busy with camera and notebook. Here are some of the ideas we thought were worth bringing home.


A splash of colour

How exciting is that orange bench against the blue wall! We usually think of bursts of colour in the garden being provided by flowers. Certainly those hot pink blooms in the foreground add their own zing to the scene, but they’d fall a lot flatter if the walls of this courtyard were a well-behaved neutral. The sky-blue wall backs a tangy orange seat. Blue and orange are opposites on the colour wheel giving their combination a real zip that makes a great foil for the greenery and draws you in to this sitting area. We also like the way the wooden floor of the deck overlooking the lily pond is broken up with its own planting hole. Emerging from the bleached grey boards are the dark bronze swords of New Zealand flax, bordered by a frill of chocolate-brown heuchera.


Photo - Robin Powell


The simple red bar stool and table are an invitation to a drink under this early-spring pergola. With the grape over the pergola not yet in bud, and the Virginia creeper on the rough-rendered concrete walls just beginning to appear, the blazing red is a real drawcard. As in the other picture on this page, the choice of colour wheel opposites is what lends the space a real charge. Red is opposite green so that even when the pergola is a roof of foliage, the red stools will still sing out with an exhilarating vibrancy.



Photo - Robin Powell


A shady echo

We did love this clever pergola whose roof edge is cut out to imitate the pattern of light falling through a canopy of foliage. The pergola, on simple brick columns, is in a grove of quince planted in a slightly sunken lawn. A dark green hedge encloses the garden and offers a sense of privacy. A square reflective pool makes another image of sky and leafy canopy. The repeated images of sky and leaf: in the pergola; in the pool; and from the grass under the trees themselves, emphasises the sense of serene intimacy in the garden. This simple little garden is a reminder of just how successful a single idea, rigorously carried through, can be. The garden must be equally lovely in the spring, when the trees are in blossom, and in the autumn when the russet leaves are complemented by the downy golden orbs of the hanging fruit.


Photo - Robin Powell


Box balls

This is not an idea you’d want to emulate unless you enjoy trimming, but if order makes your heart sing you’ll love the repeated pattern of these globes of box. They develop an intriguing abstraction through the rhythm of the repetition. Sitting on the chairs you can feel as if you’re bobbing on a gentle sea; or, Gulliver-like, are encircled by green hills. Up close the new growth adds a different hazy overtone, sometimes luminous green, other times with a brown stubble like a three-day growth.

Photo - Robin Powell



Here’s a brazier that looks just as good without a fire in it as when it’s aglow with leaping flames. The pointed ellipses of rusted steel are fabulously sculptural in this small courtyard space. The piled wood makes a pleasing pattern too, but even when it’s empty this wood pile is a treat, neatly framing a view of the garden in an intriguing shape. Sitting around the coals of a fire after dinner is one of the great treats of camping, but since the advent of the gas-fired barbecue, we rarely light fires for cooking in our backyards. By the time the flames have died down to perfect cooking coals it’s almost time for bed, so most of us cook with the convenience of instant heat. A brazier or firebox is not for cooking, but for heating and providing a focal point around which stories can be told as toes are stretched to the warmth. A brazier will extend your season of al fresco dining, and bring some of that camping magic back home. This particular design is not available in Australia, but there are plenty of design options around.


Photo - Robin Powell


Buried tramp

This nifty approach to entertaining the kids doesn’t shout quite so loudly as trampolines set up with attached net cages. Instead of creating a towering profile, this design sinks the trampoline so that it’s an easy step-on, step-off option, bordered by a soft lawn.


Photo - Robin Powell



Text: Robin Powell 

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Author: Robin Powell