A Hidden Paradise In the City

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Plants

“I’m excited to introduce you to Harry Pierik whose garden I visited last April on a trip for journalists sponsored by the International Flower Bulb Center. His city garden is mesmerizing; unlike any other I’ve ever seen.

Harry, a self-taught garden designer, has designed many gardens throughout Holland; ranging from small city gardens to countryside, stately homes, and villa gardens. His compositions are distinguished by their extraordinary design, natural appearance, wide assortment of plants and easy flowing lines and contours. After he finished his career as a school master, Harry followed his passion of designing gardens and photography (with an exhibition of his photographs in Amsterdam and Paris). This April, Harry’s first book, Paradijselijke Tuinen (Gardens of Paradise), will be published; it features nine of his public gardens and their history in his hometown. For more information, about Harry, check out his website. “……Fran Sorin

It is hard to spot the Hidden City Garden from the main street, the Assendorperstraat; one could say it is practically invisible. If you were to walk down the surrounding streets you might capture a glimpse of bamboo or canopy.

Only one key is needed, just two doors to be passed and you enter a completely different world. It seems you suddenly find yourself on a clearing in the woods, instead of somewhere in the middle of town. Once inside the hidden garden, you are outside; even more so when out on the streets. Through the rich assortment and arrangement of plants an idyllic atmosphere is created, consisting of valleys full of ferns, tropical gardens and hazy slopes.

1 September. Onder de Davidia involucrata, rechts het blad van Decaisnea fargesii, links o.a. Hydrangea paniculata en Miscanthus.

From a standing point below the Davidia involucrata. On the right, the foliage of Decaisnea fargesii, the yellow ‘sunflowers’ of Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ and the white globe thistle Echinops sphaerocephalus ‘Artic Glow’. On the left, Hydrangea paniculata, Miscanthus sinensis and Eupatorium purpureum. Above the pruned Buxus, Ilex and Ligustrum, the hardy palm Trachycarpus fortunei.


The frosted topiary of Syringa and in the background Ilex aquifolium. Older holly trees (male) often have messy branches. The motto I live by is ‘make a minus in to a double plus’, so I regularly prune the Ilex’s corolla while leaving the hanging branches intact. Through this method, an image of a dark green hill with a waterfall of liana is created, which is emblematic for the tropical ambiance in this temperate climate.


The topiary creates a landscape full of scaled hillsides and green valleys. On the left the corolla of Trachycarpus fortunei. Malus ‘Red Sentinel’ and Mahonia x media.

4 December, er ligt een dun laagje sneeuw over de tuin, waardoor de contouren en kleuren van de beplanting zichtbaar blijven.

A thin layer of snow covers the garden, leaving only the contours and colors of the vegetation visible. On the left the red berries of Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum’.

5 December. Berijpte snoeivormen. Links verdiepte paden in het gras.

The frosted topiary of Buxus and Ligustrum. On the left the deepened paths in the grass.


Frosted Rhododendron and Hydrangea serrata and on the left the trunks Acer pseudoplatanoides.

7 December, dik pak sneeuw in de verborgen stadstuin.

A thick blanket of snow covers the Hidden City Garden.

Malus ‘Red Sentinel’ and Mahonia x media.
9 Peulen van de dead man's fingers, Decaisnea fargesia
Decaisnea fargesii

Due to the characteristic shape and color of the pods, this tree is known as ‘dead man’s fingers’.

10 Blad van Epimedium x peralchicum 'Frohnleiten'
Frosted leaves of Epimedium x peralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’
11 Berijpte lokbloemen van Hydrangea serrata
Frosted florets of Hydrangea serrata
12 De welriekende Lonicera fragrantissima bloeit de hele winter, tot april.
Lonicera fragrantissima

Their fragrant flowers bloom from November until March. I use this evergreen shrub in many of my designs. Planted next to a front door or a passage, you’ll smell a whiff of Spring in Winter.


13 Winterbeeld van Hydrangea paniculata 'Burgundy Lace'
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Burgundy Lace’ with frosted florets.
On the left the evergreen fern Polystichum polyblepharum.

On the right a tree covered with ivy with the winter border in the background. When you strip the leaves off of branch of ivy, you easily create liana.


Deepened path cross the grass in flowing lines. On the upper left a small grass hill.


On the left the evergreen fern Polystichum setiferum ‘Bevis’. To create a tropical touch, I have stapled Polypodium vulgare , using a bit of nylon stocking and soil, to the old apple tree on the forefront, thus making the Polypodium epiphytic.

Soon I’ll be showing you some early Spring flowers. The snowdrop season is coming.

Please note: Portrait of Harry courtesy of Modeste Herwig

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest  

Fran Sorin
3 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Lynn January 31, 2011, 1:16 pm

I’m so intrigued. Is there a video? I went to the website hoping there might be a video – but my Dutch isn’t very good!
Many years ago I lived in a flat off Park Lane – 30 yards from Oxford St – on Green Street; there was a lovely, large shared garden that was a quiet and beautiful oasis in an otherwise manic part of London… happy times!

There are in fact videos of my garden. If you go to my website and choose the submenu TV, there are many clips of my garden. My next publication on GGW will be about snowdrops in my garden. It’ll also feature a link to a subtitled film of about 25 minutes. Coming summer more subtitled films on my garden will be released.

Tovah January 31, 2011, 10:15 pm

What an inspiring garden, Harry, especially the frosty photographs. And after I read the captions, the concept of “let a negative become a positive” kept ringing in my mind. I think you’ve changed the way I garden. Just wondering about that lovely Lonicera fragrantissima – sounds like it might be hardy to Zone 5 here (anybody have experience?). I wonder if it would bloom with the witch hazels in New England?

I think the Lonicera fragrantissima could stand a zone 4 climate. It will
however bloom for a shorter periode. In Holland (zone 7/8) it stops
flowering when the temperature drops below zero degrees (Celsius). The
flowers will reappear after thaw sets in. Thanks! Harry

Michael Rosenberg February 7, 2011, 11:27 am

Now here is a voice clearly defined and demonstrating a working idea. Bravo. I have been reading through a number of the posted articles on this site and am beginning to see the vision the creators originally intended. Thank you Harry and thank you Ms. Fran Sorin for the effort and the passion. If you feel it appropriate, I would appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the writing/photo community. Be well, Michael @ plantwithme.com

[shareaholic app=”recommendations” id=”13070491″]