Old experimental garden (1927)

The old experimental garden which dates from 1927 is one of the oldest gardens and was developed to experiment with perennials in the sun. On the spot where the kitchen garden used to be, Mien Ruys laid out a border of approximately 30 metres long and 4 metres wide and tried to discover how much sun perennials could endure. It is a traditional English border, suitable in the time of the large villa gardens with gardeners who were employed for the upkeep. The border has a wooden fence in the background and a tiled path formed by a double row of cement tiles at the front. The original cement tiles which were probably used in the nursery, inspired Mien Ruys to design the ‘Grion’ tile (exposed aggregate). Since 2004 this garden has become one of the three national monuments in the Mien Ruys Gardens.

Design and planting

To Mien Ruys the design was just as important as the planting. In this garden she made use of contrasts. For the bright colours and straight lines of the border the contrast was an open space  created by the lawn  and a large undulating hedge along the edge of the garden. As well as the contrast between the straight form of the border and the natural shape of the shrub hedge there is also a another contrast with light and shade. The border with its brightly coloured flowering plants lies in the bright sunlight and the green hedge of shrubs in the shade.

When you enter the garden through the garden door, the first part of the border is rather shady because of the shrubs on the other side. The Spiraea veitchii forms the entrance , emphasising  the border in the bright sunlight.

Groups of plants on the other side of the path give the effect of not only walking alongside the plants but sometimes between them.

A border is at its best when you look along it. Bare spots and dead flowers are not so noticeable  because other plants are in front of them.  This is why the bench has been placed at a particular angle to the border.

The plants in the border are mainly ones with bright colours; yellow, orange, red, blue and purple. From the middle of May till the end of September the plants are in flower with the peak in June, July and August. As well as colour, shape is also important; straight bushy sorts interchange with clusters  on single stems. The shrubs on the opposite side of the border flower in Spring.

At the end of the border the flowers are a lighter colour and less bright. This makes the border look longer. Anything lighter, seems to be further away. This idea was still kept when in 2010 tulips were planted following a design by Jacqueline van de Kloet. Adding tulips also meant that flowering time in this border started earlier.


Since 1927 little change has taken place in the Old Experimental garden, except for the usual replacements. Sometimes plants have to be replaced or added and these are taken from the traditional assortment. In 2008 the garden door had to be moved when the new entrance to The Gardens was made.

Throughout the years, Mien Ruys experimented with colours in this border. Originally she had thought up a colour scheme of soft tints of pink, lilac and light yellow, leading up to bright yellow, orange, red, blue, purple and ending again with lilac and soft yellow. After this was done, looking along the border you saw the lilac  -pink and at the same time the orange- red. Mien Ruys then learned that it was better to give the plants you could see at one glace the same colour scheme. For this she chose yellow, orange and red alternating with blue and purple. At first a group of large flowering marguerites surrounded by gypsofila had also been planted half way along the border. Taking the advice of an English gardener friend she removed this because ‘white is not a suitable colour in the midst of all the other colours and forms a hole in the design.’

The  pillar under the Sundial on the path at the beginning of the border came from the sale of an old country house and was brought there by the steam tram which operated between Zwolle and Coevorden. The pillar had been lying in the front garden of her parental home for months until Mien Ruys suddenly came up with the idea of placing it upside down in the ground and putting a sundial on the top of it. However, since then the surrounding plants have become so high it is impossible to read the time as the sundial does not get enough sun.