Dutch garden

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Kensington Palace Dutch Gardens

The Dutch garden is perhaps distinguished by its efficient use of space, and in large examples, the use of topiary (sculptured bushes and trees) and small canals.[1] On an international level, a garden with large numbers of tulips is also easily labelled as a Dutch garden. Historically Dutch gardens have generally followed trends from neighbouring countries, but from the Early Modern period, Dutch gardens were distinctive for the wider range of plants available over the rest of Europe north of the Alps, and an emphasis on individual specimen plants, often sparsely planted in a bed. In the 17th century and into the 18th, the Dutch dominated the publishing of botanical books, and established the very strong position in the breeding and growing of garden plants, which they still retain.

Dutch gardens are relatively small, and tend to be "self-contained and introspective", with less linkage to the wider landscape around.[2] The placement of flowers and shrubs in the Dutch garden in Holland, however, may be non-linear and informal, though still efficiently making use of space and light. Because the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries, gardens are generally small and because houses are placed right next to each other, there is not very much light available. From the 19th century onwards, Dutch gardens adapted to wider trends, mostly from England and France.

Het Loo[edit]

Het Loo Palace, by 1693; perhaps partly planned but not finished.

The gardens of Het Loo Palace, laid out by a pupil of Le Notre under William III, were the largest Dutch version of the French formal garden, in the style of the Gardens of Versailles; in recent decades they have partly been returned to this style, with elaborately-patterned parterres. But these could not be said to be typical of the Dutch style.[3]

Dutch influence on England[edit]

The Privy Garden at Hampton Court Palace, in September

In England, Dutch influence became strong for a period after the Dutch King William III of England reached the throne through his wife; both were interested in gardening.[4] The Dutch garden was the description given to a particular type of rectangular flower garden space, often enclosed within hedges or walls, even if part of a larger garden or parkland. The Dutch version of the French formal garden, this space would be laid out in a highly cultivated and geometrical, often symmetrical, fashion, shaped by dense plantings of highly coloured flowers, and edged with box or other dense and clipped shrubs, or low walls (sometimes in geometrical patterns), and sometimes, also, with areas of artificial water, with fountains and water butts, which were also laid out in symmetrical arrangements. The flower beds and areas of water would be intersected by geometrical path patterns, to make it possible to walk around the garden without damaging any of its features. An example, not now planted in an authentic style, is to be found adjacent to Kensington Palace, due south of the orangery. The Privy Garden at Hampton Court Palace has been restored in recent decades in a more authentic version of the style around 1700, when it was planted under William III. Unlike Louis XIV's much larger Gardens of Versailles, this was only accessible to a small group of courtiers.[5] Another example, less ambitious, is at Clandon Park in Surrey. The Dutch garden, with its geometry and formality, was in opposition to the cottage garden, which in its modern form is characterised by grass, winding and asymmetrical paths (if any) and a blurring of the lines between flowers and grass by allowing shrubs to grow over flower bed boundaries.


Common flowers in the Dutch garden are:

Noteworthy gardens in the Netherlands[edit]

Panoramic view of the Keukenhof gardens

Some noteworthy public Dutch gardens are:


  1. ^ Quest-Ritson, 81-82
  2. ^ Quest-Ritson, 81
  3. ^ Quest-Ritson, 81-82
  4. ^ Quest-Ritson, 80-81
  5. ^ Quest-Ritson, 81
  • Quest-Ritson, Charles, The English Garden: A Social History, 2003, Penguin, ISBN 978014029502X