This is a reprint of a discussion I had with renowned Dutch garden and bulb designer, Jacqueline van der Kloet, 4 years ago. She is known throughout the world for her magnificent bulb designs. If you need inspiration for fall bulb planting, this is a must- read. Fran Sorin
One has only to experience Jacqueline van der Kloet’s personal garden, The Tea Garden, to understand why she is known as one of the premiere bulb designers in the world. When I visited in mid-April, even with a 2 week delayed bloom time due to an unusually cold winter, it was lush, exuberant, almost sweet, yet paradoxically strong. The roundish circular flow, with winding pathways and evergreens judiciously placed, immediately gave a sense of order. Upon walking through an unassuming gate, I was met by large sweeps of narcissus and yellow tulips as the lead players and the majestic Fritillaria imperialis dotted about; I felt as if I had been transported to a spring wonderland.
I was coming off of a 3 day tour of early flowering spring bulbs to 9 private gardens sponsored by the International Flower Bulb Centre for a group of journalists from around the world. Jacqueline, in collaboration with Frans Roozen, Technical Director of the IBC, led our brigade in what can only be described as an overwhelming sensory delight. Throughout the tour, Jacqueline, a slim, blond, quick moving woman was present every moment, explaining how the designs were implemented, what bulbs she chose to use and any other of the myriad of questions that were thrown her way.
Unlike many garden designers who were involved with gardening since they were children, Jacqueline had little interest in it. From the time she was a teenager, she wanted to attend art school. But her parents discouraged her from following that path, feeling that it would offer her little financial security. It was by chance that Jacqueline ran into a girl from her high school, a few years ahead of her, who was training to be a landscape architect. Jacqueline had no idea what landscape architecture actually was. But once she understood that it had something to do with art, she decided to attend The School of Garden and Landscape Architecture in Boskoop, Holland.
It was love at first sight. Jacqueline knew that she had found her art form. After 2 years of studying in Boskoop, she moved to Brussels, Belgium to complete her studies. She then returned to Holland and spent the next 6 years working in a firm designing small parks and public spaces. After designing a personal garden for one of her clients, Jacqueline came to the conclusion that she wanted to focus on designing residential properties. It was time for her to make a change.
When Jacqueline and two colleagues decided to open a design and landscape architecture practice in the early 1980s, they started looking for a property where they could establish their business. After scouring newspapers each weekend for real estate and traveling throughout Holland in the hopes of finding an ideal setting, they discovered the perfect property in Weesp, a small town close to Amsterdam.
For the first 15 years, Jacqueline focused on designing perennial gardens: she used few bulbs in her designs. At some point, she was asked by a well known Dutch magazine to write a column about her work with perennials. Two years later, Jacqueline was taken by surprise when she was approached by the International Bulb Centre about writing a column for them on bulbs. She explained that she knew very little about them; as far as IBC was concerned, Jacqueline’s lack of knowledge was no problem. They told her that she could experiment with bulbs on her own property, the Tea Garden: when Jacqueline felt ready, she could start writing about them.
When Jacqueline received 10-12 boxes of bulbs that fall, she was thrilled. She planted the bulbs in the same intermingling style she used with perennials. The next spring when Jacqueline saw the fruits of her labor, she was delighted. The rest is history; each year Jacqueline added new bulbs, continued to hone her skills and artistry and then wrote about it for the IBC.
It was a matter of time before the word got out about Jacqueline’s bulb designs; large commercial projects started coming her way. The list of projects she has worked on over the years is an impressive one: it spans Europe, Asia, The Mid-East and The U.S.
Jacqueline began working with Keukenhof 7 years ago. In 2005, she was asked to create a master plan for one of the oldest sections of the gardens. The Directors of Keukenhof wanted a garden with a new feel to it, one that integrated emotion and surprise.
Jacqueline gave the powers to be what they asked for and more! The 10 acres that she designed consist of 7 Gardens of Inspiration, so-called ‘flower ribbons’ (2 meters wide borders of various length with a mixture of small shrubs, perennials and bulbs), a Bridal Avenue and a huge perennial border which features only tulips. Not surprisingly, these designs are the most popular areas at Keukenhof.
Over the past decade, Jacqueline’s name recognition and star power in the U.S. has risen significantly due to her bulb designs at 3 major public gardens: The Battery Conservancy, The Lurie Garden at Millenium Park, and The Seasonal Walk at The New York Botanical Garden. At both The Battery Conservancy and Millenium Park, Piet Oudolf had been hired to design the gardens: he asked Jacqueline, first with Battery Park and then Millenium, to develop a bulb display to complement his New Wave perennial designs. By the time The New York Botanical Garden made the decision to create a 2 year temporary garden, The Seasonal Walk, it came as no surprise that Jacqueline and Piet were selected to collaborate on this project.
A Converation with Frans Roozen
Frans Roozen, Technical Director of the IBC since 1975, has been working with Jacqueline for the last ten years. When he first met Jacqueline, her experience with bulbs was limited. Frans needed to find someone that he could trust to design dazzling spring bulbs displays for Dutch press tours. He knew that Jacqueline was that person.
And so their collaboration in creating smashing spring bulb designs for IBC press tours began. He describes their relationship as ‘two hands on one belly’. Frans said that in every garden that Jacqueline designs, especially over the last 5 years, her signature is apparent. Until Jacqueline began to make her imprint on the world of bulb design, screaming colors were the norm. Jacqueline was the first designer to use soft colors in bulb displays.
Each year after scouring gardens throughout Holland, she and Frans go through an arduous process of whittling the list of gardens down to a handful, ultimately selecting those they feel will dazzle and excite visitors. All of these gardens, planted with sweeping arrays of Dutch bulbs, are designed by Jacqueline. On this year’s tour, each of the owners had intimate relationships with their gardens, so Jacqueline had to be sure that they felt comfortable with her choice of colors and designs; while at the same time being true to her creative self.
Once the 9-10 gardens are selected to be on the tours, Jacqueline, Frans and a cousin of his plant 50-75,000 bulbs by hand over a week long period. They usually do the planting the first week in November and allow a half day to plant up each garden.
Frans talked again about Jacqueline’s signature style and how each year she adds different ideas to the mix. He said that she still does her drawings by hand, with a pencil, sitting at a table. And then she creates with her mind. He described Jacqueline as spending a lot of time in the garden, taking photos, never saying right away what she thinks. She is quiet and lets the atmosphere come to her. She looks at the pictures at home, then starts to design with proposals.
Frans said: “She gets up very early in the morning and is always the first one at a tour to go in and see how her designs are developing. She checks everything that she is going to do throughout the day. She has everything organized, from the first moment until the end of the day; not only for her work but for her friends. When buying a gift for a friend, she will never just buy any present. She takes the time to find the right gift for the person to whom she is giving it. She is very strong willed not only in the garden but in life as well.
I had my 6oth birthday and I got a mirror from her with a very nice design with angels on top of it. She told me that I should look more in the mirror. Whenever I say something or she says something, we understand each other very well. I understand her and accept what she says and wants.”
A Converation With Jacqueline
The phrase I would use to describe Jacqueline is ‘quiet glee’. She comes across as gentle, humble, extremely focused, passionate, strong and feminine with a great laugh and spontaneous smile.
Jacqueline does not deliberate or anguish over her designs. “When I get an assignment for a new project, I look at the land first” she said. “But very quickly, I have an idea about shapes, heights and colors; whether or not it should be more bold. It’s pure feeling and emotion. I think I’m very lucky that I have that.”
Jacqueline thinks that one of the reasons her designs are so well liked is because people feel that they can duplicate them. Unlike designs of perennial and deciduous gardens that are composed of a plethora of different plants, Jacqueline paints her landscapes with a limited palette. In a small border, she uses 3 varieties of bulbs and in a large border up to 7 varieties. All of the bulbs are mixed together in a wheelbarrow, some planted more closely together and others further apart: 50% are spring blooming and 30% are summer bloomers. Her bulb designs are reminiscent of Impressionistic paintings, composed of a large number of dots. In her unassuming manner, Jacqueline told me that “the dotting effect with the bulbs is not so difficult.”
Jacqueline has no master plan for her career and never has. She said that she is going in all directions, continuing to take on small projects, not just the larger, more visible ones. As is evidenced with so many decisions she has made throughout her career, Jacqueline is highly intuitive and at the same time practical.
If a prospective job doesn’t give her a good feeling, Jacqueline tells the potential clients to find someone else. As she said: “I look at the land first, then the surroundings and the people who give me the assignment and what the final effect it will have. I also have a say in it. If they want a huge quantity of red, yellow and blues, I won’t do it.”
When I told Jacqueline that she makes everything sound so simple, she laughed. When asked if she knows how good she is, her reply was: “Yes, I think so. I like that people like my gardens. I like most of the projects that I’ve done so far. But when I get a new one, I think that this project is the best that I’ve ever done.”
Jacqueline is an unassuming, humble, extraordinarily talented artist, filled with joy, passion and a child like playfulness. Whether she is discussing her own designs or talking about other gardens and places she has visited throughout the world, her curiosity and eagerness to experience life and learn more shines through.
When you feast your eyes on a Jacqueline van der Kloet landscape, you can’t help but to feel how lucky you’ve been to experience such exuberant, unfettered beauty.
The photos below are a few of the dozens and dozens of jaw dropping combinations, all designed by Jacqueline, at some of the gardens on the IBC Journalists Tour this past April. All photos are courtesy of IBC.
Anemone blanda ‘Blue Shades’, Hyacinth “Miss Saigon”, Tulipa saxatillis
Roman hyacinth blue, Anemone nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana’
Fritillaria imperialis ‘Aurora’, Tulip Purple Prince, Tulip Purple Rain, Tulip Ronaldo, Tulip Cream Perfection, Tulip Hermitage
Triumph Tulip Heritage: This is an unusually beautiful scenting tulip with the maple leaf design drawn on the flower
Tulip Candy Prince, Tulip Purple Rain, Tulip Jan Reus, Tulip Groenland, Tulip Pink Diamond, Tulip Pink Lady
Tulip Cairo, Tulip Queen of Night, Tulip Ronaldo
Tulip Purissima, Tulip Exotic Emperor, Tulip White Elegance, Tulip Jan Reus, Tulip Candy Prince, Tulip Blue Ribbon, Tulip Pacific Pearl
Tulip Purissima, Tulip Rosalie, Tulip New Design, Tulip Barcelona, Muscari armeniacum
Tulip Red Impression, Tulip Rosalie, Tulip Flaming Purissima, Tulip New Design, Tulip Negrita, Tulip Barcelona
Fritillaria imperialis ‘Rubra’ (crown imperial), Mixture of tulips like: Tulip Stockholm, Tulip Pirand, Tulip Red Impression, Tulip Red Wing, Tulip Happy Generation
And to help whet your appetite, here are a few newer or less frequently heard of bulbs that will add some dazzle to your garden for Spring 2011.
Tulipa ‘Akebano – A new tulip from Japan. The name means (roughly) “bright sky at daybreak.” The semi-double flowers are big and full, but their pale yellow coloring, often touched with red and green, gives them surprising lightness and grace.
Available at: Colorblends
Tulip ‘Charming Beauty’ – Double Late Tulip – This enchanting Angelique love child is varying shades of apricot-tangerine with blush-apricot exterior petals, ever darkening into its dusky apricot-orange center. Bulb size: 12 cm/up. Late April. 18”. HZ: 3-7. Limited supply.
Available at: Van Engelen
Fringed Tulip ‘Miami Sunset’ – As bright and bold as the city it’s named for, this tulip is a shocking shade of fuchsia. Not only are the edges rimmed with a hint of orange, they’re dramatically fringed and feathered. Sturdy stems ensure this tulip will withstand stormy spring weather.
Available at: Van Bourgondien
Narcissus Sweet Love – one of our own babies; an incredibly, sweetly fragrant flower – better than most perfumes; very vigorous with multiple bloom stalks with multiple flowers; this one is very special; mid spring; 12″-16″.
Available at: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs
Allium ‘Forelock’ – a 2” to 3” globe-shaped flower with an unruly tuft of white-tipped, mahogany-red flowers exploding out of the top of its head. Bulb size: 14 cm/up. June/July. 24”. HZ: 4-8.
Available at: John Scheepers Inc.
Hyacinth ‘Firelights’ – Grills, starlight, and fireflies… before summer comes, the pale peach flowers of this spring-time Hyacinth are sparked with fiery orange. Deep fragrance makes this bulb an essential addition to any patio planting.
Available at: Van Bourgondien
‘Sensual Touch’ Tulip – These double late tulips produce very full, double flowers that resemble peonies and give the class its nickname, “peony-flowered tulips.” Amazing for its incredible doubleness, thick fringes and unique color that’s a blend of burnished orange, tangerine, apricot and rose.
Available at: McClure and Zimmerman