Marsh garden (1990)

The Marsh garden is one of the last gardens designed by Mien Ruys. The garden is next to the north boundary of the Gardens and consists of a large natural pond and a plank bridge in straight geometric shapes made of recycled plastic. It is interesting to note that the square form used by Mien Ruys in her first design in the Wilderness Garden, is repeated again here in one of her last gardens, some 65 years later.

Design and planting

The Marsh garden was the result of experimenting with materials. Round about 1990 recycled plastic came on the market. Plastic waste was pulverised and melted down so that it could be pressed into various forms using moulds. The result of this was a long lasting product that could also be used in gardens because of its neutral colour. The garden seats and picnic tables were rather heavy looking. Mien Ruys wanted to try out experiments producing something nicer looking that could be used in a garden. Because she was not content with the shape of the pond in the Marsh garden, experimenting here was an obvious choice.  She felt that the natural planting in the garden required  a definite and clear form as a contrast.  The high ground water here made a natural pond possible. A rectangular pond was dug out  and the plank bridge made of recycled plastic was put into place. The squares that form part of the bridge cross over the pond and the long plank goes along the edge of the water. In this way the garden is not only visible from the side but also from the middle of the water.

The clear straight lines of the plank bridge create  a fascinating contrast with the loose natural planting. The recycled plastic withstands frost, heat, dry conditions and rain well. It does not become as slippery as wood as no Algae grow on it. A disadvantage is that the plastic is not as strong as wood, shrinking in the cold and expanding in the heat. This was taken into consideration when constructing the bridge. A great many support posts were added to make it strong enough. The result was a rather heavily-built construction but as this is under water it is not visible.

When constructing the Marsh garden a palisade using square poles made of recycled plastic was placed between this garden and the adjoining Yellow garden. The material used was not strong enough to make long poles. After a time they were bent and were replaced by wooden poles. In 2007, when these poles were rotting away and needed replacing, enquires were made again at a firm producing recycled plastic. The quality of the recycled plastic had improved by this time, making it possible to put up a palisade of recycled plastic again. Up to now these poles have remained upright.

The double Field Maple hedge, Acer campestre is on the boundary with the Roof garden on the south side. On the north side shrubs and the old Salix alba form a green wall. From the Marsh garden you have different views across the Gardens. For example, a view of the Yellow garden, and across the water to the New experimental garden.

The planting in the Marsh garden consists mainly of water and marsh plants which, to a certain extent, are allowed to run wild. This garden requires very little work. Now and again the plants are given some attention to stop becoming overgrown.

In many of the articles  published on the Mien Ruys garden, a photo of this particular garden is very often used as illustration.


Before 1990 there used to be a garden here with a  prefabricated kidney shaped pond. A firm producing ponds had asked Mien Ruys to design ponds using soft flowing lines. She found that ‘a very difficult task’.  She tried one of her ideas out in the Marsh garden, but as she said herself ‘ the uninspiring shape remained a strange element’. By lowering the pond and its surroundings a marsh was created with a varying water level caused by rainfall coming from the higher parts of the garden. This was a new opportunity to experiment with plants needing different circumstances for growth.  All in all this led to an uncontrollable mix of native and exotic sorts which, according to Mien Ruys,  was caused by the structure and shape of the marsh. This was a completely different situation to that in the Wilderness garden where mixing up the various sorts of plants did not present a problem because of the clear structure of the garden. When the chance arose to experiment with recycled plastic, Mien Ruys used this to change the design of the garden.