Jan de Groot at his tulip nursery before WW2. Possibly around Zoeterwoude, Netherlands.

My Grandfather’s Garden

When the snow melts away you might suddenly see the snowdrops. Spring is coming, but it’s not there yet. I am looking forward to the tulips popping up. It reminds me of my grandfather Jan de Groot, who grew tulips for export to the UK. Later in life he made this amazing garden full of tulips at the back of their small house in Zoeterwoude. As a little boy I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer colour of it. He often grew the full red ones (Tulipa ‘Apeldoorn’) and, as you see on the foreground in the photograph, red-yellow tulips, like Tulipa ‘Kees Nelis’. And then when the tulips where finished he would dig it all up and plant his whole back garden full of dahlias. Tall ones and all colours. Again, one big jungle of colour and lots of cut flowers for the whole summer and autumn. Needless to say, it made a massive impression on me.

Later, studying garden design, I realised how unusual his garden was. Now, in honor of my grandfather, I am gathering all the info I can about his garden and I am going to recreate his garden. First, of course as a plan, which I will publish here, but with the idea of actually using his planting scheme in a garden design for a future garden project.

Vernacular Garden Design

In academic terms, the way ‘ordinary’ gardens or yards are laid-out is called ‘vernacular garden design’. And talking to people about it makes me realise how important they are, and how vividly they are often remembered for one reason or another. They are the backdrop of many family events and feature often as background for photographs. It is rare, however, to find the details of what grew in these gardens or to find a drawing of them. Any garden, it doesn’t matter if they are considered ‘special’ or not, seems to disappear when the owner & gardener vacates the house. I can see another project starting up… So who is gathering information on our grandparent’s gardens?

Garden Plan

A plan of my grandfather’s garden will be published here soon.

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