Water garden (1954)

The Water garden was the first experiment with a design for a small garden. In a relatively small area the planting is very varied. The Water garden became one of the three National monuments in 2004. The other two are the Old Experimental garden and the Wilderness garden.

Design and planting

Much had changed after the Second World War. The gardens were small and gardeners were no longer being employed for the upkeep of the gardens. These changes also brought about changes in the design of gardens. Less upkeep became an important part of this. Large borders needing much attention were no longer suitable. Mien Ruys used this situation as an experiment to develop new ideas.

At the end of the Old experimental garden a small bridge was built across the dried out ditch of the nursery. This made it possible for a new experiment on the other side. Mien Ruys designed a garden with a sitting area and a pond. Grass was not included as this meant too much upkeep. The arrangement of the paving stones with little islands for flowerbeds was the key to the design. The paving stones were also laid with large joins so that moss could grow in between.

The materials used for the paving was also the result of an experiment. After the war,  road bricks and natural stone were very scarce. Cement was used a lot in building but was less suitable in gardens. Mien Ruys discovered that cement was more attractive when it was worn and the gravel used in the cement became visible. Her idea was  to make paving stones with a top layer of gravel. A cement factory agreed to help with the production and the first results of this experiment are still here in this garden. The ‘Grion tile’ as it was called here, consisting of a mixture of coarse gravel and cement had been created. This tile, 40 by 60 centimetres, was the forerunner of the exposed aggregate which  was frequently used from the seventies onwards.

In the dried out ditch an L-shaped 60 centimetre deep pond was made that ended under the bridge. It seems as if the pond continues on under the path but if fact there  are two separate ponds. The lions’s head in the wall of the small pond produces a subtle stream of water giving a very slight sound of trickling water. The  pond emphasises the width of the garden and connects the wet part with the raised dryer area of the garden.

As well as an experiment with materials, this garden was also designed to experiment with planting. In the raised part of the garden with its natural stone walls, plants suitable for dry areas were used. The use of water and the dry raised flowerbeds produced different circumstances of growth for many different plants. The wet parts for the water and marsh plants and in the dry areas rock plants were used. Mien Ruys chose smaller plants that did not need any support and green shrubs which provide some structure in the winter.

On three sides of the garden there is a yew hedge. On the fourth side next to the Bench with water ball the garden is screened off by the evergreens. Originally there was a hedge of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Triomph van Boskoop’. After about fifty years the hedge had become a green wall of approximately one metre in height. The height was no longer in proportion to the garden and clipping became a dangerous task. When the water garden was renovated in 2002 this hedge was removed and replaced by a new one. This did not survive and it was decided to give the soil some rest. As a temporary solution a fence was put in place. After a while the Caamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Triomph van Boskoop was planted again but without success. A sample of soil was sent to the University of Wageningen. It was discovered that there was Pytophtera in the ground. In 2009 another type of conifer was chosen: Taxus baccata. This type has done well and is now a thick green wall.

An old weeping willow from the early period of the nursery was a prominent element in the Water garden. This fell down in 2009. A new willow has been planted but it will take some time before the same effect is reached.


The design of the Water garden has never been changed. However, the disappearance of the Weeping willow and the replacement of the Chamaecyparis  with a Taxus hedge has changed the picture of this garden. As one deals with living material In the Gardens this sometimes happens. In 2002 the Water garden was renovated. The Mien Ruys Gardens foundation had a number of new “Grion’ tiles made for this occasion.