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What is a Dutch Garden?

By Jami Yontz
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Dutch garden is a gardening style that relies upon geometric patterns to organize brightly colored flowers and dense shrubs in a small, enclosed space. The Dutch, who created this style because of the limited amount of space and the small plots of land available for homes, made this style popular. A Dutch garden relies upon the efficient use of space and light to create a garden ruled by rectangular shapes, symmetry and many ponds or waterways.

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and houses are built fairly close to one another. The Dutch garden style was created to accommodate the small space available for a garden and the sometimes minimal amount of light present because of shading from neighboring houses. Unlike other garden styles, the Dutch divided the garden into rectangular plots and created intersecting walkways, instead of winding paths. Grass and other filler plants are rarely used in this style, and because of space constraints, larger trees with overhanging branches are not planted. Instead, short manicured shrubs or low walls intersect the garden and create the geometrical patterns.

A Dutch garden design also emphasizes the use of brightly striped flowers. Tulips, anemones, calla lilies, narcissi, smaller rose varieties, snow drops daffodils and crocuses are popular perennials for Dutch gardens. Red, pink, blue, yellow and oranges are intertwined in a bed to create the beautiful arrangement of textures and colors commonly seen. Small plants such as thyme and chamomile were used in Dutch classical gardens.

The Dutch garden style was also heavily influenced by the large amount of rain the Netherlands experiences. Ponds and canals were created throughout the garden, sometimes in unexpected places, to accommodate the amount of rain and drainage. Tree-lined canals or thick hedges were created to surround the garden space. Dutch horticulture primarily uses smaller decorative fountains and statues, or none at all, to keep the focus toward the low-lying plants and shrubs and the view of the landscape clean of tall structures.

The gardens at Het Loo in Alperdoorn, Netherlands, are the most famous example of the Dutch garden style. The rectangular beds were a distinct break from the more elaborate and decorative shapes popular in the 17th century. The garden is rooted on an axis, with walkways that created a grid through the grounds. Other popular examples of Dutch horticulture include the Gardens of Arcen Castle and the Gardens of Oud Valkenburg Castle.

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Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On May 12, 2014

The use of the term Dutch garden is common, and when you use the term most people have an idea of what you are talking about. This is interesting since there is actually no formal architectural design or template for this style.

By Sporkasia — On May 11, 2014

When you look back through history you see that each "new" gardening style borrows greatly from previous styles. The names changed, but many of the same patterns, designs and garden plants were used.

For this reason, Dutch gardens have much in common with other types of gardens. I think the use of tulips (many, many tulips) is what helps to distinguish a Dutch garden from similar styles.

By Feryll — On May 10, 2014

I was curious about the differences in French baroque gardens and the Dutch gardens. I have to agree that the Dutch borrowed heavily from the designs and ideas of the French.

If you look at pictures of the gardens of the Versailles palace in France and compare them to pictures of the gardens of Het Loo palace in the Netherlands, some of the pictures look identical.

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