Sunken garden (1960)

Around 1960 the Gardens were extended adding an area on the north side of the Wood. The Sunken garden was one of the first gardens to be developed here. Just like the City garden, the size of the garden tells us that much had changed after the second world war; the gardens had become much smaller and were more generally accepted by a larger group of people. In this garden the railway sleepers create differences in height which also enhances the atmosphere in the garden.

Design and planting

The Sunken garden is the result of one of the experiments with materials: railway sleepers.  By digging off the soil to about 15 cm deep and using this to raise the ground around this, slight differences  in height are created, forming a closed in area. The Cornus kousa  emphasises this effect by creating a roof. The railway sleepers can be used as seats. The garden is quite shady and the plants suitable for partial shade. Many of them have light colours so that they can be seen in the shade. The kinds of plants have be chosen to ensure that there is something  in flower for the greater part of the year. From the bench you have the longest view in The Gardens, right along the Sun borders and Reed pond, through the Yellow garden to the Mixed garden.


The reason for the development of this garden was that Mien Ruys had received an order to design a garden in the sand dunes. She wanted to reduce the impact of a sand dune that was very prominent in the garden. Building a wall in the loose sand was not possible. She had seen some railway sleepers lying about somewhere and decided to use them to reduce differences in height. The various possibilities excited her and she ordered a  lorry full of railway sleepers to be taken to Dedemsvaart so that she could start some experiments. By sawing the sleepers in different lengths  she created compositions of lines. The Sunken garden is one of the results of these experiments with railway sleepers; the earlier  Sleeper bench was removed in the eighties.  During one particular period Mien Ruys used railway sleepers in other designs and whether appropriate or not, these were copied and used in many other gardens. She then became known as ‘Sleeper Mien’.

In 1995 the Sunken garden was renovated. A discussion took place as to whether the garden should be kept using the same materials or completely renewed. Because the use of railway sleepers had been an important period in the work of Mien Ruys, it was decided to keep the garden in its original state.

Since then the Sunken garden,  the City garden, the standard perennial borders and the Reed pond have been nominated as National monuments from the period of rebuilding after the Second World war.