As winter arrives here in the northern hemisphere, it’s worth fighting the urge to stay inside. Instead, let’s keep exploring gardens to enjoy and learn from them in all kinds of weather.
I have never had a bad day in a garden. And my visit to the formal garden at Het Loo palace in Apeldorn, the Netherlands was no different despite a freak cold front and snow storm. I considered canceling my trip, but this was the only Saturday that I was available to get to this garden. So I loaded my camera and set out on a journey that included a trolley, a commuter rail, an international train, and a local bus. The scenery along the train ride through freshly fallen snow was out of the movie Dr. Zhivago.
On average 1,000 people visit Het Loo each day. But on this day I was the only person in the garden!
The garden at Het Loo was built in the 1680’s by William (Dutch) and Mary (English). The Queen and King were named joint sovereigns of Britain in 1689 in exchange for signing the Declaration of Rights that limited the power of the monarchy.
The garden was designed in the French formal style by mathematician Daniel Marot around a central axis, radiating walks, and boxwood parterres. Nearly every plant is clipped -- as if to suggest complete human control over nature. This style can feel stifling, and in the 1700’s the garden was demolished to make way for an English picturesque garden which would have looked like a naturalistic landscape park. Many European formal gardens of the time suffered this fate. The view of nature in the eighteenth century shifted from dangerous wilderness that needed to be tamed, to a romantic ideal, all goodness. More on this shift in later posts. In the 1970’s, the garden was restored to its original design in order to preserve its history. This garden is considered one of the finest examples of a formal European garden. On a par with world famous Versailles, albeit much smaller.
I feel lucky to have been able to see this beautiful garden under a fresh blanket of snow. It reminded me that in the search for the all season garden, the formal garden has a lot to offer. And that no day in the garden is a bad day.
Thanks to a delicious and hearty bowl of Dutch pea soup at the palace cafe and a souvenir hat from the gift shop, I managed to stay warm. It was colder than it looks in the photos above.