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GardenSMART Episode

Show #22/5209. Muiderslot Castle And Gardens

Summary of Show

Restoring The Gardens
Henk started working here in 1982 and the first thing the board of the castle, because the castle and gardens are state owned, the first thing they asked him to do was to MAKE THE GARDEN MORE EARLY 17th CENTURY. The exterior of the castle was late, medieval, the interior of the castle early seventeenth century as are the fortification works and the gardens - herb garden, vegetable garden and plum orchard. The plan was to make them as 17th century as possible.
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Restoration Resources For 17th Century Gardens
Eric would like Henk to talk us through some of the RESOURCES that he used because there's a whole discipline behind designing these authentic gardens. What can he tell us about that, what were some of the books he studied? The most important thing was to start with trying to know Pieter Hooft better.
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Modern Resource Material
What are some more MODERN RESOURCES? Eric realizes there are books that have been published in the last 50 or 100 years that reflect back on these earlier works and then also give us an insight into how these gardens were constructed. Books about modern gardens, modern vegetable gardens and herb gardening that Henk likes include Le Potager Du Roi and Villandry, they're very inspiring. Especially if thinking about managing and working in a modern, restored 17th century garden.
For More Information Click Here

The Artwork Provided Clues
As Henk was working through the process of recreating the beautiful gardens he paid much attention to the ART THAT'S DISPLAYED IN THE CASTLE. A very important work for Henk was the work of Joachim de Beuckelaer a flemish painter. His paintings are included in the fine kitchen. Joachim was living in the Antwerp area of Flanders and painted one particular picture around 1569. One can see the immense wealth of heirloom vegetables, so lots of information in this picture enabled Henk to be able to have the right vegetables and herbs in both gardens of Muiderslot.
For More Information Click Here

Fine Kitchen
Eric would like for Henk to talk a little about life in the castle. We're in the kitchen, it's basically decorated much like it would've been back then. This is the FINE KITCHEN. And that is the reason for so many works of art, so many paintings that are here. This kitchen would have been used for baking bread, slaughtering animals.
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Smaller Dining Room
We next visit the DINING ROOM. This is a smaller, intimate room, probably very easy to heat as it would get very cold in the winters. And it too has been beautifully recreated with the antiques we see here that would have been, of course, appropriate to that time period. It's the small dining room of the castle.
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Vegetable Garden
Eric and Henk go outside and visit first the VEGETABLE GARDEN. As mentioned earlier this would have been the working garden for the residents of the castle. Food would have been difficult to obtain year round and, of course, they were growing much of what they ate. Henk first talks about the design of this garden. The design of the garden is typically Dutch, early 17th century. It's a small scale and divided into four quarters.
For More Information Click Here

Terra Cotta Structures - Etiolating
Eric would like for Henk to talk a little bit about the beautiful TERRA COTTA STRUCTURES in this garden. They had a very practical purpose in addition to being ornamental. They are used for bleaching, bleaching vegetables - rhubarb, for example or asparagus. It was much more enjoyable to eat bleached vegetables. With many vegetables if they're green they are going to be bitter but by bleaching them, or etiolating the vegetable, they are able to grow without any chlorophyll.
For More Information Click Here

Perennial Garden
As the castle was also used for entertaining guests there are sections of the garden that were designed just as a place for people to relax and to just enjoy nature. They have a PERENNIAL GARDEN and this garden would have been made up of not only native plants but plants that would have been brought in from other parts of the world.
For More Information Click Here

Beech Arbor
Eric would like for Henk to talk about the BEECH ARBOR, it's one of the more impressive arbors he has seen anywhere. A lot of meticulous pruning but a beautiful, kind of central focus to this garden design. Yeah, for merchants like Pieter Hooft and his friends it was very important to recreate outside within the shade, therefore an arbor with windows was important.
For More Information Click Here

Plum Orchard
We next visit the PLUM ORCHARD and this, of course, tying back into the vegetable garden would have been another important place for food production. And if you think about a castle full of people the amount of food that you would need to grow, an orchard would be a very, very important feature. Of course, the food can be eaten fresh or it could be dried and then saved for your consumption at a later date. It was very important to have sugar from these plants during winter time.
For More Information Click Here

The Moat
One thing too worth pointing out at this location is they have THE MOAT for the castle, which, of course, served the strategic purpose of keeping people from entering the castle if they didn't want them too. But it also serves as a reservoir for fresh water which could also be used to water these trees and, of course, the vegetable and perennial garden.
For More Information Click Here

LINKS:

Show #22/5209. Muiderslot Castle And Gardens

Transcript of Show

In this Episode GardenSMART visits an ancient castle and looks at their 17th century gardens that have been completely and beautifully restored. The imposing castle Muiderslot was part of the defense line of Amsterdam and one of the most important fortresses in the Netherlands. Just 15 minutes from Amsterdam we go back 700 years in time for a taste of real Dutch history.

The beautiful herb and vegetable gardens still retain the atmosphere of the Dutch renaissance. Henk Boers joins Eric and discusses daily life in the 17th century inside and outside this Dutch castle.

Eric thanks Henk for joining us today. Henk returns the compliment and thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting Muiderslot Castle and gardens. Henk has a very unique responsibility. He is the manager of two historic gardens, this being one of them. This is a beautiful place but along with creating this beautiful display garden he is also trying to reproduce, as accurately as possible, what this garden might have looked like hundreds of years ago. That's part of the experience that Henk wants the visitor to have, to provide a deeper understanding of what this very, very old garden would have been. And that goes to the plant material, to the design. It is a very intricate job.

Eric would like for Henk to talk a little bit about how he, as a garden manager, has learned how to garden that way and the types of resources he has available to make these determinations. Henk started working here in 1982 and the first thing the board of the castle, because the castle and gardens are state owned, the first thing they asked him to do was to MAKE THE GARDEN MORE EARLY 17th CENTURY. The exterior of the castle was late, medieval, the interior of the castle early seventeenth century as are the fortification works and the gardens - herb garden, vegetable garden and plum orchard. The plan was to make them as 17th century as possible. One of the most important people living here was Pieter Hooft. He was a poet and a playwright, but also a bailiff sheriff of this area. He was the son of one of the most important merchants of Amsterdam and stayed here because of his function as sheriff bailiff. He was the first one, the first one we are sure of who created gardens here. He had his own house, like all the other bailiffs at that time. He had his own house here as well as in Amsterdam. But Amsterdam was far away so he had to have a garden here to be able to eat, to be able to fill the kitchen. Of course the farmers around here had enough milk, cheese, etcetera, etcetera, but special vegetables like asparagus, for example, he had to grow himself in this Muiderslot gardens. And when the castle was restored for the second time in the 1950's, it was restored for the first time in the 1880's, so when it was restored for the second time the decision was made to restore to those early seventeen century gardens again. To restore as close to original as possible. Those gardens had to be much more simple, farm gardens, farmhouse gardens and are much closer to the Dutch classic way of designing gardens in the early 17th century period. There's a beautiful formality to these gardens as well, it almost seems a little French inspired. But it's a working garden so there's the practical component but also they are visually very beautiful.

Eric would like Henk to talk us through some of the RESOURCES that he used because there's a whole discipline behind designing these authentic gardens. What can he tell us about that, what were some of the books he studied? The most important thing was to start with trying to know Pieter Hooft better. Hooft sent lots of letters inviting people to join his summer parties, his cultural summer parties here at the castle. We even know the name of his gardener, his head gardener, but he didn't leave many notes about the garden itself and he didn't leave much about the gardening that was done here so only his letters and archives were available for use. But a gardeners handbook De Medicyn-Winckel of Huys-Houder was most helpful. He was a head gardener in the early 17th century and was the first one who made a book like this one. Of course it was a tradition from the Greek, Roman times, but he was the first one who wrote a book about how to garden and how to lay out and how to work with all things, how to plant trees, etcetera. So archives and gardeners handbooks are his sources for being able to restore and to maintain this garden.

What are some more MODERN RESOURCES? Eric realizes there are books that have been published in the last 50 or 100 years that reflect back on these earlier works and then also give us an insight into how these gardens were constructed. Books about modern gardens, modern vegetable gardens and herb gardening that Henk likes include Le Potager Du Roi and Villandry, they're very inspiring. Especially if thinking about managing and working in a modern, restored 17th century garden. Also very important is using heirloom plants. All the plants being grown here in the Muiderslot herb garden, vegetable garden and plum orchard are early seventeenth century herbs, fruits and vegetables. These resources are so important, what it is is a distillation of hundreds of years of knowledge from different gardeners and for us, as home gardeners, having access to these types of resources and being able to educate ourselves on how these gardens were built, the type of plants, there's a lot of beautiful information on good garden design and of course good horticulture and agriculture. These are very important to be included in the library of any good gardener, in particular to the Dutch, the Flemish, the German gardeners and the gardens and gardeners of the northeastern part of America in the United States. Eric agrees, absolutely, they've all over the years, influenced each other. And that is really the story of American gardening today. Yes, it is borrowed from the Dutch gardeners, the Italian gardeners, the French gardeners, etcetera. Agreed. It is very important to look into our past. And it's also instructive as to where we are right now. Both agree. Eric thanks Henk for sharing this information and is anxious to look at the castle and gardens.

As Henk was working through the process of recreating the beautiful gardens he paid much attention to the ART THAT'S DISPLAYED IN THE CASTLE. A very important work for Henk was the work of Joachim de Beuckelaer a flemish painter. His paintings are included in the fine kitchen. Joachim was living in the Antwerp area of Flanders and painted one particular picture around 1569. One can see the immense wealth

of heirloom vegetables, so lots of information in this picture enabled Henk to be able to have the right vegetables and herbs in both gardens of Muiderslot. Lots of information from this painting - mulberries, plums, radish, cabbage, etcetera. Everything is on the painting, everything can be seen on the painting. Another important work, an inspiration source, is "The Turnip." It was painted in 1626, most likely was painted because it was such an immense turnip. Big turnips were important, therefore also important for Henk to grow them in the garden. And, an inspiration for working and maintaining the Muiderslot garden. Another painting shows Muiderslot from the other side of the river Vecht. It's a painting of a fisherman. The little painting was made from the other side of the river so from the west one is looking at the castle from the other side of the river. In it one can see the plum orchard of Pieter Hooft. It was painted, we think, around the 1630's. Pieter Hooft lived here and started his gardens and orchards between 1609 and 1647 meaning the picture shows around 15 years of plum orchard growth north of the castle.

Eric would like for Henk to talk a little about life in the castle. We're in the kitchen, it's basically decorated much like it would've been back then. This is the FINE KITCHEN. And that is the reason for so many works of art, so many paintings that are here. This kitchen would have been used for baking bread, slaughtering animals. Downstairs they would have had big fires but this kitchen, the fine kitchen, was here because the small dining room and the big knight hall are also on this level. So that's the reason the fine kitchen is here with all the works of art.

We next visit the DINING ROOM. This is a smaller, intimate room, probably very easy to heat as it would get very cold in the winters. And it too has been beautifully recreated with the antiques we see here that would have been, of course, appropriate to that time period. It's the small dining room of the castle. Pieter Hooft dined here during winter time because the large dining hall and the big knight hall were very difficult to heat. They had dinner there, breakfast here in this small dining hall. Underneath was the wine cellar and beer breweries. Everything was combined. There is also a large hall that they would use sometimes in the summer to eat when Pieter Hooft invited his friends to join him. The big knight hall was also used for parties, for theater plays, for poems. And during the summer they would have enjoyed the beautiful view of the plum orchard. This room definitely gives us a great sense of what it would have been like to live here. And it really ties into what the gardens would have been. It provides that feeling. This is a combination of the museum inside, the museum outside, the gardens, and the beautiful interior of the castle.

Eric and Henk go outside and visit first the VEGETABLE GARDEN. As mentioned earlier this would have been the working garden for the residents of the castle. Food would have been difficult to obtain year round and, of course, they were growing much of what they ate. Henk first talks about the design of this garden. The design of the garden is typically Dutch, early 17th century. It's a small scale and divided into four quarters. A quarter for the beans, a quarter for the lettuce, then beet roots, and the other vegetables. There's a distinction that has to do with crop rotation. They were very aware of crop rotation at the beginning of the 17th century. The fertility of the soil was a concern.The garden was as practical as possible. Did they use raised beds back then or is this more of a modern adaptation? No this is the original garden design. It has been reconstructed because they often have too much rain because of the sea climate in the Netherlands. The beds have to be elevated and the paths can be used as drainage for the beds.

Eric would like for Henk to talk a little bit about the beautiful TERRA COTTA STRUCTURES in this garden. They had a very practical purpose in addition to being ornamental. They are used for bleaching, bleaching vegetables - rhubarb, for example or asparagus. It was much more enjoyable to eat bleached vegetables. With many vegetables if they're green they are going to be bitter but by bleaching them, or etiolating the vegetable, they are able to grow without any chlorophyll. That is where we get white asparagus. Or rhubarb, there are many others that can be etiolated, it made them much more pleasant to eat. With this method one doesn't need to boil all the bitterness out. It was and is a wonderful way of making those vegetables accessible, edible. It was easier to cook, better and nicer to eat. Here it was done with these earthenware pots, to be ready to, to be able to eat.

As the castle was also used for entertaining guests there are sections of the garden that were designed just as a place for people to relax and to just enjoy nature. They have a PERENNIAL GARDEN and this garden would have been made up of not only native plants but plants that would have been brought in from other parts of the world. Yes, plants from all over the world although in the 17th century not many plants were imported yet. Most of the plants were from the North Americas, from the Dutch East Indies and from Europe.

Eric would like for Henk to talk about the design of this garden. It's different from the vegetable garden, which was a very practical, pragmatic kind of linear design. This is still formal but it's also playful. It was more for enjoying life outside, outside of the cold and dark castle. Especially with sunny days like this people love to be outside and from the arbor they could look into the garden, sit under the lime trees, they could enjoy the flowers in this garden. It is divided into plants for health, plants for the kitchen, plants for dining, and plants for pleasure. What are some of the plants that Henk thinks would have been in this garden back in the seventeenth century? They loved irises. One can see them throughout the garden. They grow very well because of the elevated beds. It can be a very dry climate here so also lavender does well. Henk thinks plants with a good smell were their favorites. Also, along the perimeter, there is also a beautiful topiary garden that is a nice place to stroll.

Eric would like for Henk to talk about the BEECH ARBOR, it's one of the more impressive arbors he has seen anywhere. A lot of meticulous pruning but a beautiful, kind of central focus to this garden design. Yeah, for merchants like Pieter Hooft and his friends it was very important to recreate outside within the shade, therefore an arbor with windows was important. Windows gave one a view of the herb garden and the vegetable garden. It was possible to walk outside without being touched by the the sun. It gives you a little bit of a retreat from the warm weather of the summers yet you can still enjoy the garden. The windows are cut into the arbor, it's a wonderful feature.

We next visit the PLUM ORCHARD and this, of course, tying back into the vegetable garden would have been another important place for food production. And if you think about a castle full of people the amount of food that you would need to grow, an orchard would be a very, very important feature. Of course, the food can be eaten fresh or it could be dried and then saved for your consumption at a later date. It was very important to have sugar from these plants during winter time. And this is a feature that was mentioned earlier. We saw it represented in one of those very old paintings. Pieter Hooft had written a lot about his plum orchard, also about the other fruit but especially about the plum orchard. A few years ago they purchased a picture from around 1630, it was painted from the other side of the river Vecht. In the picture one can see the castle and the plum trees just coming up behind the dike of the river Vecht.

One thing too worth pointing out at this location is they have THE MOAT for the castle, which, of course, served the strategic purpose of keeping people from entering the castle if they didn't want them too. But it also serves as a reservoir for fresh water which could also be used to water these trees and, of course, the vegetable and perennial garden. The problem here was the river Vecht was always bringing fresh water, sweet water, and sad to say sometimes salt water so it was very important to have your own sweet water source around the castle because water in the river could be salt, could be brackish, could be sweet. Just on the other side of the berm they basically have what is a brackish or salty water. And it is just is no good for growing plants. So the moat serves a dual purpose - security and as a reservoir for the plants.

In this episode we went behind the scenes and toured a 700 year old castle as well as it's amazing gardens. We learned a lot about the way life was years ago in the Netherlands and how they gardened. Eric thanks Henk. We learned so much. We appreciate Henk's time and the amazing history lesson. Thank you so much for being with us. Henk in turn thanks GardenSMART for visiting. It was a great day.

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