Min Ruys Gardens

Min Ruys Gardens
Min Ruys Gardens
Video: Min Ruys Gardens
Video: Documentary "Mien Ruys Gardens" 2023, February
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Entrance to Min Ruys Gardens
Entrance to Min Ruys Gardens

Entrance to Min Ruys Gardens

The Min Ruys Gardens are located in Dedemsvaart, 146 km from the Dutch capital. They are widely known not only in the Netherlands, but also among specialists around the world as experimental gardens of one of the ten best landscape architects of the 20th century, who was recognized as a classic during his lifetime. Her name is not just woven into the history of European landscape design - she created this story with her own hands.

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By her very destiny, Min Ruys was assigned to become a garden designer. Her mother was the daughter of a priest, and her father was the owner of the well-known perennial nursery Moerheim, located here in Dedemsvaart. In 1904, the year of her birth, Moerheim, created in the late 1800s, was awarded Royal Kennel status. It was already becoming the largest perennial producer in Europe.

Ming's first steps in organizing her own garden were not successful. Little by little experimenting with perennials, she surrounded her favorite plants a path from a vegetable garden to an orchard and a small square pond. But a year later, most of the plantings died due to the high acidity of the soil. There was a choice - to improve the soil or select more suitable plants. Choosing the second one, Min Ruis made it one of the key principles of her landscape design.

In 1928 she began working as a draftsman in the gardening department of the nursery and wrote in her diary: "Today is the first day of my career." In those years, there was no landscape design school in Holland, and the gardens were dominated by a regular style with its rigid geometric shapes. The traditional elements of the garden were a central fountain, clipped hedges and gravel around the neat flower beds. From the very beginning, Min began to look for new expressive means, showing an extraordinary talent in the selection of plants and unexpected approaches to design. Very soon she became the head of the architectural bureau at the nursery.

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In 1928, Ming trained at Tunbridge Wells in England, in 1930 she graduated from the first landscape college in Europe in Berlin and attended a course of lectures at the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University in her homeland, Delft. For some time she was influenced by the Delft school of architecture, which gravitated towards heavy monumentality, but later simplicity and lightness prevailed in her style. Her work was influenced by Gertrude Jekyll, whom Min met through her father, and Karl Forster, who actively promoted the use of perennials in the landscape.

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In 1937, Min, together with the architectural bureau, moved to Amsterdam, but the parental garden was still a testing ground for experiments in the summer.

She considered flowering plants to be an important component of the garden, which would change its general appearance and mood depending on the season. In her private projects, which were especially numerous in the pre-war years, flower beds have always played an important role. In search of optimal use of space, Min initially placed paths, terraces and flower gardens at an angle to buildings, for which she received the nickname "Oblique Min". But since the 60s, her style has changed, straight lines and sheared forms reigned in the gardens, contrasting with the riot of perennials. She attached importance not only to the color combinations of plants, but also to the texture and shape of the leaves, the change in their color at different times of the year, the decorativeness of fruits, the effects of light and shade, the possibility of naturalization of plants.

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In 1943, Ming joined the association of 8 architects - supporters of functionalism in architecture. After the war, she worked a lot with social projects. By organizing small courtyards near social housing and in private housing cooperatives, she most of all strived for simplicity and functionality. Free planting of perennials migrated from private gardens to urban ones, and other architects more and more imitated them. “I wanted to create a functional green space for ordinary people,” she once said in an interview.

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In 1950, at the age of 45, she married the publisher Teo Moussault, who was 15 years older. Just three months after the wedding, her constant inspirer, her father, dies. Following the highly popular book Fences: How to Create and Maintain Them (1939), Min writes the even more successful Perennials (1950), and then Mountain Plants in the Garden (1953) (all books were reprinted in 80 years). Together with her husband, in 1955, she began to publish the first quarterly magazine in Holland "My Garden" about garden design, which was extremely popular in the upper and middle circles of society. In it, Ming sought to develop the idea of ​​using perennials in the garden (the magazine is still published by the publishing house Moussault). In the 60s, the couple traveled extensively around the world and organized garden tours through their magazine, which was a novelty at the time.

Post-war life was marked by an increase in the population of Holland and a decrease in the area of ​​gardens, but even the smallest ones continued to be decorated with sculptures and gazebos. Life dictated economy, use of inexpensive materials. And Ming is the first person to think of using railroad sleepers in design, in particular for retaining walls and edging flower beds. Now she gets a second nickname - Bielzenmien, from the word Bielzen - sleeper. But sleepers were used in Dutch gardens for many years, until it became known about the harmful effects on the environment of the resin with which they were impregnated.

An example of the use of sleepers can be seen today in the Flooded Garden - this enclosed space between two sheared beech hedges, which is best viewed from a bench located under the lush turf of the cousin.

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Another innovation that took root thanks to Min Ruis was the use of more natural looking concrete slabs with a washed top layer of gravel for inexpensive paving. This idea was immediately taken up by the industry, which began to produce concrete paving slabs of various sizes, with a surface of gravel of various fractions.

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The sixties and seventies were a time of minimalist gardens with a clear layout, an architecturally organized space without any decorations. Air, light and space were considered the key design points. Min embraced these principles, dictated by the times, and created cozy, intimate gardens.

For the recreation area, she considered water very important, where one could observe the life of frogs, newts, fish, insects. She loved to use oozing stone balls in the design, which increased the moisture of the soil and air and made it possible to grow such moisture-loving plants as ferns, anemones, and lambs even on dry grounds. Min called for the use of not only garden cultivars, but also wild flora.

She was very careful about the use of furniture in the garden. The benches were always placed in sheltered corners, from where the visual axis of the garden ran. But at the same time, she was the first to put in the garden deck chairs, which have become commonplace today. Sometimes she grouped benches or seats into several, organizing spaces for communication. Also, Ming delicately inscribed garden decorations into the landscape - stone balls, bowls of water, as if hiding them. But she liked to place the sculpture in open spaces - in a wild meadow or lawn.

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A rare occasion when red benches serve as an accent color
A rare occasion when red benches serve as an accent color

A rare occasion when red benches serve as an accent color

Having lost her husband in 1974, Ming did not weaken her activities and joined the artists' association. At the request of an American publishing house, she is writing the book From Chaos to Design. Garden Design Principles”, which, for unknown reasons, was not destined to see the light of day.

Min Ruis died in 1999 at the age of 94. Already unable to walk, she watched her experimental gardens from the window of her parents' house. By the way, her last project dates back to 1995, when she was already 90 years old.

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Min Ruis did not leave a memoir, but is eloquent in her statement: "People should look at my gardens. My soul lies there." Visiting her experimental gardens, you can get a complete picture of the development of garden design in the last century and why she is called the mother of modernism.

Today, out of about 3,000 works created by her in the Netherlands, almost nothing has survived - only one of the public gardens remains, on the site of which construction is already planned, and these gardens in Dedemsvaart, supported by the Foundation named after her, organized in 1976. Three early works out of 30 presented here were recognized as national monuments, although this is not entirely true in relation to other, no less striking examples of her landscape work.

Naturalization Garden (1924, restored in 2001)

The oldest garden with a square pond at the intersection of straight paths, called by Min Ruis herself her "first architectural act". In this garden, the geometry of the reservoir is smoothed out by the surrounding vegetation. A garden in which an aspiring designer experimented with plants for sun and shade.

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Old Experimental Garden (1927)

English-style mixborder 30 meters long and 4 meters wide, composed of light-loving perennials that bloom from mid-May to late September. It is here that the old concrete slabs are located, which inspired Min Ruis to create the popular and nowadays paving slabs with washed gravel.

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Water Garden (1954, restored in 2002)

The first Min Ruis garden without a lawn, including a reservoir and wetland and drought-resistant plant species located on uneven retaining walls.

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Not so long ago, the "Roof Terrace" was recreated, where rot-resistant sycamore wood was used for the bench and high ridges of the ornamental garden. Under the bench and ridges, Min recommended organizing storage space for garden tools.

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One of the most interesting and famous is the Swamp Garden, which is remembered for its beautiful dark decks above the water. They, like the palisade nearby, are made not of wood, but of recycled plastic, which Min Ruis was also one of the first to use. The mirrored surface of the water is echoed by silver shoes, as if inadvertently left by the water by little Cinderella - a romantic feminine touch in a strict man's garden.

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Maintaining clear lines and shapes in her gardens, Min Ruis rarely used smooth curves. But in two gardens they are very clearly present. In the center of each of these gardens is a circle that brings together the surrounding space. In the "Yellow Garden" it is a slightly submerged round lawn, separated by sheared larch trees from a flower garden with sunny yellow flowers of cuffs and helianthus.

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A charming bright green round lawn is also found in the shady garden. But it was not created from cereals, but from tender sour. Around - nothing but a natural forest and a path leading into the distance with a clear zelenchukovaya on the sides. An example of a garden without flowers is simple and elegant.

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Despite the fact that the individual gardens in this exhibition were created at different times and transported from different places, they represent a single whole, built on the principle of geometric design, with borders of sheared hedges and vines, connected by intricate transitions. They reflect how Min Ruis's views on garden design changed, how this mixture of innovation and tradition came about. Many of her finds still seem cutting edge today, even though they are several decades old, a testament to her outstanding talent.

According to many experts, Min Ruys was the leader of the "New Introduction of Perennials" movement in the 90s. She considered them as an element of the closest interaction between man and nature. Pete Udolph wrote about her: "She was one of the few garden designers in Holland who talked about plants and plantings, while others only talked about design."

2014 is the year of the 110th anniversary of Min Ruis, the 90th anniversary of her experimental gardens, the 80th anniversary of the Min Ruis architectural bureau and the 60th anniversary of the magazine she founded. Dedicated to the mother of garden modernism.

Photo: Rita Brilliantova

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