Carien van Boxtel is a self employed garden and landscape designer from Zaltbommel, The Netherlands. In November, whilst attending a meeting in the city centre, Carien longed for somewhere quiet and green. Happily she found Winterbourne and plenty of inspiration too. We asked her to tell us all about it.
“I have been a trained garden designer for 5 years. Before that, I practised law as a barrister in Amsterdam. Although I loved being a barrister, gardens are my first love and hitting 40, I decided to do a career switch (as so many in this profession…) and started studying again.I have done so many interesting things in my new profession. I am very proud to mention that I designed and built a garden/tradestand at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015 called ‘Dutch Chocolate’ and I initiated an award winning community garden in my hometown Zaltbommel. I have designed a new part in the garden of the residence of the British ambassador in The Hague and I also work with Sarah Raven’s company, helping them select (Dutch!) bulbs for their catalogue.”
“I think Arts and Crafts gardens have endured for so long because they feel homely, accessible, non- intimidating and non-manicured. They have a ‘human scale’. Arts and Crafts principles inform my own work on a daily basis. What I do appreciate is the simplicity, craftsmanship, linearity and clarity of shapes and lines, and in contrast the naturalistic, mixed planting and the fact that almost graphic ‘plant-iconography’ is so important. The beautiful shapes and colours of plants are the inspiration for all non-plant material, such as woodcarving, fabrics, wallpaper and stonemasonry.”
“As I live in an old brick manufacturing area of the Netherlands, I appreciate the use of honest, pure and local bricks with their beautiful natural earthy colours, particularly splendid during the autumn. And what I like most is the fact that house and garden form a perfect symbiosis, are equally important and are designed simultaneously. I wish more clients would think that way…in our days the garden is often the most neglected space when it comes to designing a home.”
“I started as a gardener at a very young age and will never stop calling myself a gardener. It is certainly important to know your plants, not only to know their names, but to know about their habitats, needs, companionship/associations, size and transformation during the seasons. All this knowledge and experience as a gardener certainly helps. But I have seen beautiful gardens designed by non-horticulturalists and horrible gardens designed by plant lovers. Design is most of all a matter of understanding the brief, plot, context, possibilities, ‘sense of place’ and working with scale and space. Plants are important, but they are, in my view, the means which lead to the goal, as much as all other elements in a garden, like boundaries, paving, lighting, water, water features, and furniture etc.”
“I came to Winterbourne because I wanted to escape the rather brutalist centre of Birmingham, where I stayed to attend an RHS meeting. I desperately needed some green and I had heard that Arts and Crafts style was still alive in the University area of Birmingham. What I really liked were the layers of time you could sense everywhere in the garden. First of all a retreat for a wealthy family, a place to study, and now a garden to please visitors and garden lovers. Lovely mature planting and surrounding woodlands as a natural framework for the more formal garden. I loved the contrasts, vistas and transitions in the garden and, in this season, the autumnal displays of many trees, shrubs and perennials were magnificent.”
“I even loved the damage to the lawn done by badgers and the relaxed way the gardeners were responding to it. In a garden, you have to work with nature, not fight it and imperfectness is something I can appreciate. It is a quintessential British garden, so yes, it reminded me of many other British gardens I have visited, like Sissinghurst, and especially Hidcote, although in my opinion, the atmosphere in these high standard gardens is not so relaxed. Thank you to all of the staff who help to make Winterbourne such a beautiful place to visit!”