Willem van Riemsdijk & Trudy van Riemsdijk – Zandee
In our case, in Stiens we have been managing the garden at Doktershus since mid-2012. It is slightly less than 3000 m2. There are many different types of Stinzenplants. present. The soil type is predominantly clay. The garden was originally designed by the landscape architect Gerrit Vlaskamp in 1863-1868. When we bought the site, there had been virtually no maintenance in the garden for a long time.
The garden grew thick by spontaneous growth of naturally seeded trees. Bushes and Brambles proliferated. As a result, the structure of the original garden layout was not or barely visible.
This negligence has a great influence on the Stinzenflora. Some Stinzenplants need more light than others. In the past, for example, many Stars-of-Bethlehem grew and flourished. The previous owner, G. Bosma, was very fond of this plant species. But because the vegetation was so overgrown, it seemed that there was not any Star-of-Bethlehem left and this species also had little chance. One species that had greatly expanded was the Bear’s Garlic. When the growth conditions for Bear’s Garlic are optimal, it can displace all other species.
(In)sight in the garden
The management consisted in the beginning of the removal of many of trees that were offspring of seed, that varied in size from small to considerable size trees. Overgrowth with bushes were removed. The aim was to reconstruct the structure of the garden as designed by Gerrit Vlaskamp as much as possible. We have done this fairly gradually. Slowly but surely you get more (in)sight in the garden and you can better determine whether a tree or bush should be removed or not. Sycamore maple, Caucasian wingnut, Brambles, Snowberry, Salmonberry, Ivy, Butterbur, Japanese Knotweed, Plum are all species that had more or less taken possession of the garden. As far as the Greater Butterbur, Bramble and Japanese knotweed were concerned, we quickly decided that they should disappear. Removal and control of these species is relatively simple with the exception of Japanese knotweed. Many land managers struggle how best to deal with Japanese knotweed.
Japanese knotweed starts to grow rapidly in the somewhat later spring and has a very deep, extensive and proliferating root system. The root system has a large number of nodes of roots. From these nodes, the roots spread in width and depth.
In July 2012 we started the combat of Japanese knotweed with mowing. The plant at that time was more than man-high and stood very dense. An advantage was that the plant occurred on a relatively limited area. The plant grows back quickly after mowing. With only frequent mowing it will take an extremely long time before the plant will disappear. In August 2012, with the shovel and garden fork we removed as many root nodes as possible and afterwards we mowed every three weeks the upcoming plants. The mown plants and root nodes were treated as garbage.
In May 2013, we covered the soil where the Japanese knotweed occurred with a layer of tree prunings covered with a thin layer of straw on top. The Japanese knotweed still grows through this cover but its growth is somewhat suppressed and delayed. Young shoots that grew above the cover were regularly ‘harvested’ by cutting them by hand as deeply as possible. This method helps to slowly deplete the energy that is stored in the roots of the plants. However, it is labor-intensive and certainly not sufficient. A more important advantage of the soil cover is that the clay soil, which normally hardens during the summer due to dehydration, remains nicely moist and therefore easier to handle. In July 2013 the soil cover was removed. The structure of the soil was clearly improved by the cover. At places where the Knotweed came above ground we removed as often and as much of the roots around the plant as we possibly could using a garden fork. Often the root breaks off quickly and you do not remove a lot of roots, but regularly one can remove more extensive amount of roots. In total in 2012 and 2013 we ‘harvested’ a nice heap of root nodes and roots in this way. The following year, 2014, growth points have been removed regularly again with as much root as possible.
This year, 2015, the plant has almost completely disappeared. Occasionally you will see a stem with leaf rising and it will be ‘picked’. In the meantime, the plant is no longer a problem in the garden and can hardly even be found. By removing as many roots as possible and making sure that the plant can not grow back, most of the remaining roots will die and what is left of them does not have much growth power anymore.
Structure of the English style landscape garden
The garden consists of a number of large beds separated by winding paths. The beds originally had different functions, a ‘flower garden’ with bleach-field for the white laundry, a large circular vegetable garden and a bean-shaped bed that was the ‘orchard’. Along and in the former vegetable garden, there are now old and younger fruit trees, apples, pears and plums. In the former orchard were originally pear trees planted along the path. However, most of these trees these had already died and only some tree trunks were visible. One tall pear tree that remained recently died also and had to be cut. An English Yew was standing close to this pear tree. Yew trees do not fit well in a Stinzenflora garden because nothing wants to grow under these trees. This tree was from a landscape perspective also not in the right place. It stood in the ‘orchard’ and obstructed the view from the height where there used to be a reed-covered arbour. That location is still marked by polled Sycamore maple trees. In the former orchard we have planted young tall growing pear trees according to the original plant list of Vlaskamp (1868).
There are now three pear trees from the plant list in what used to be the orchard. There is also a somewhat younger Plum tree. Fruit trees have a fairly open canopy and that goes along well with Stinzenflora.
The garden has a beautiful micro-relief. This became visible again when unwanted tree growth and bushes were removed. Along the edges of the terrain are large trees and some bushes, and there is a ‘forest lane’ in a part that was added to the garden in 1987.
Directly behind the house the site was largely paved with stone and concrete. Near the house was a large Chestnut and a little further away at the transition to the original garden was a rather large dark European Beech. However, both the Chestnut and the Beech were doomed by various diseases and had to be cut down already in 2012. The danger existed that the Chestnut would fall on the house and the Beech tree had a limited lifetime expectancy due to its diseases .
A small construction at the back of the house was demolished, and all the pavement behind the house was removed. We created some new flower beds that were planted with different types of plants. The soil under the concrete and pavement consisted partly of blue underground clay with a kind of putty structure. This part of the garden is intensively managed. We do a lot of mulching to improve the soil structure. Initially we also added chips of Rape seed straw, with the aim to increase soil structure and organic matter content. Compost was also added regularly.
Many of the plants that we have planted in these beds were in the past used as a medicine. The reason for choosing such plants is that the house has always been a Doctor’s House with a pharmacy. These plants occur in the wild, although not always in the Netherlands. Many species are on the Red List of rare or endangered species.
Stinzenflora and management: lower nitrogen level, improve soil structure, mowing management
It is not possible to say when the different types of Stinzenplants that were present have been introduced. However, it is certain that the Dutch Crocus (Crocus vernus) and the Star-of-Bethlehem were already in abundance in the nineteen thirties in the bed in front of the Caucasian wingnut, which used to be used as a bleach-field. At present there are many different types of Stinzenplants all over the site.
The management of the beds in the landscape garden designed by Vlaskamp has as its main objective the preservation and improvement of the Stinzenflora. The first challenge for management is to try to reduce the nitrogen content of the soil in the spring. This has to do with the Ground Elder, which grew very high in many places and the Bear’s Garlic that developed into large plants on many spots in the garden. Ground Elder is a species that belongs in the environment where many Stinzenplants occur naturally. Ground Elder does not compete strongly with early varieties of Stinzenplants such as Snowdrop, Crocus and Winter Aconite because these species bloom before the Ground Elder is above the ground. Later flowering spring varieties, however, have a lot of problems with high growing Ground Elder.
The aim of our management is not to eradicate the Ground Elder, but to ensure that the plants come later above ground and remain smaller, and therefore compete less with the Stinzenflora. When the Ground Elder becomes less vigorous, the Bear’s Garlic will also become much less aggressive. Ground Elder, Bear’s Garlic, Nettles and Cleavers are typical species of a nitrogen-rich environment.
Another objective of the management is to ensure that the structure of the soil improves. This is also highly desirable for an optimal development of the Stinzenflora. To achieve this goal, it is important to stimulate soil life. In 2013, therefore, a thin layer of chips of rapeseed straw was brought on the surface of the bed in front of the Wingnut in mid-July after it had been mown. This straw contains very little nitrogen, but it does stimulate soil life. Another measure we took at the end of July was sowing Phacelia in rows. In places where sufficient sunlight came, this has grown well and it has also flowered later in the year. Ground Elder was then removed by hoeing. In October the Phacelia was mowed and the material was removed and put on heaps at the edge of the garden. Branch clippings were piled up in rows. The intention of the growing of Phacelia was to extract more nitrogen from the soil. Furthermore, Ivy growing on the soil and in trees was intensively removed in the fall by mowing with the forest scythe and by means of the garden fork and a handsaw.
Then we kept ourselves busy actively fighting the Bear’s Garlic. The Bear’s Garlic overgrew the other Stinzenplants in some places. In 2014, therefore, in a number of places, the garlic was removed with the fork and further combatted by cutting off the leaves, early mowing and cutting of the flowers.
In 2014 the first time we mowed was in mid-June and the cuttings were removed. In the former vegetable garden and the bean-shaped bed, again, chopped rapeseed straw was added after mowing and Phacelia sown.
In September everything was mowed and cuttings were removed and at the end of October the garden got a final cut. All mowing is done with the scythe.
In 2015 we did it differently. Two times, namely on July 14 and September 11, the garden was mowed. After the first mowing, a thin layer of half-digested wood chips (1.5 years old) was applied in a number of places. The half-digested wood chips are again intended to stimulate soil life and improve the structure of the soil, so hopefully the Stinzenflora can develop even better. After the last mowing session, the leaves that fall in the autumn will be left on the soil surface. This promotes soil life and improves soil structure. Fallen branches are removed in autumn and the fallen leaves have to a large part been broken down in spring.
Stinzenplants that bloom much later need special attention. A very special Stinzenplant is the Pyramidal Star-of-Bethlehem. This bulbous plant is in the bean-shaped bed of the former orchard. This species blooms in mid-July and the seed is only ripe at the end of August or early September. This plant is spared with mowing so that it can also sow itself. This has worked reasonably well. In the former vegetable garden were two smaller groups of Common Lungwort. These plants have been spared when we were mowing. The effect is that they have expanded considerably and now form two large circles. The first time Ground Elder came up between the plants it was removed by hand. Meanwhile, Ground Elder is no longer a problem between the Lungwort. The circles are now kept in check by mowing the edges. We have a similar experience with the garden Solomon’s seal. There was a fairly large group between which Ground Elder and Cow parsley grew. The approach here was the same as for the Lungwort. Meanwhile the plants are very dense and powerful, Ground Elder gets no chance anymore and the group is kept in check by mowing the outer edge.
In the beginning of September the mowing takes place for the second time. This happens at the beginning of September because in the bean-shaped bed the Meadow Saffron (Colchicum autumnale) and Autumn Crocus (Crocus speciosus) are present. Mowing should take place before these plants come above ground and start to bloom, which is in September, October. The Autumn crocus blooms later than the Meadow saffron.
It is expected that mowing will take place twice a year in the coming years. The first time around mid-July when the later species such as Bluebells have produced seed and the second time in early September. At places where only early flowering species grow, mowing in summer can take place earlier in May/June.
Stinzenflora garden in late spring and summer
The vegetation after flowering of the Stinzenflora currently consists of Ground Elder, Red campion, Cow parsley and Creeping Buttercup as the most important species. Cleavers also occur locally. In spring the flowers of the Cow parsley are cut off. This limits seeding and gives a calmer image. The Ground Elder is now much less aggressive than in the beginning, but there are still major differences locally. After the first mowing session, there is a rather quiet vegetation, especially of Ground Elder with some flowering Red campion. Sand Leek, a nice plant that belongs in this environment, occurs in a number of places, just like the Field Forget-me-not. This vegetation gives the garden an interesting view even after the flowering of the Stinzenflora. Possibly the diversity of species will increase further in spring and the share of the Ground Elder will decrease.
It is possible that species such as Salsify and Great burnet, which occur in the intensively managed garden near the house, settle in the landscape garden section. The garden is still clearly in a transition phase from a neglected terrain to a garden with a clear structure with moderately intensive management.
Many types of Stinzenplants tend, if the situation is optimal, to expand strongly. Which species will prevail is an interesting question. Due to better management, all sorts of species, which were hardly present at all when we bought the site, are already increasing considerably. The structure of the soil still differs considerably from place to place, but there is clear improvement. Due to a fairly large variation of the environment in terms of light, moisture, nature of the soil and species of trees, and due to the different needs of the various types of Stinzenflora, it is expected that, even in the long term, probably quite a lot of species in the garden will continue to thrive, even with a rather extensive management.
The combination of a flower / herb garden near the house with management focused on Stinzenflora for the rest of the garden is an adventurous challenge and we enjoy it very much.