The Gardens of Appletern

 In Garden Design, News

The Netherlands


I had the privilege of being invited on a visit to the Netherlands with a talented group of garden designers, landscape architects and landscape contractors. No, it was not a jolly. We were there for a purpose visiting JUB Bulbs, Ebben Nurseries, Schellevis and Vande Moortel. As part of the tour, the four companies had kindly organised a visit to De Tuinen Van Appletern. Whilst many plants were still dormant there was still plenty to see.

A fun garden. It reminded me of my childhood watching Morph who was an animated clay character on the children’s art program called ‘Take Hart’. I’m probably showing my age.

These charred timber beams are very effective in creating a separation from the gravel pathway in front of the garden. Sitting in the garden you feel enclosed and protected yet you can still see beyond the boundary without feeling intruded from the outside.

I find this weathered steel structure ethereal as you can see right through it. However, it’s image will change in summer when it is covered in climbers. What a great way to create different looks for different seasons.


Ben van Ooijen is the director of The Gardens of Appletern. However, I was surprised to learn that he used to be a DJ for 10 years. His gardening career started at the Walstraat 30 years prior to purchasing half an acre of land to garden on.

Ben noticed that people had a need for both information and inspiration for their gardens. He started with one small show garden. As more and more people came to visit the garden, he was certain that a park with different types of gardens planted with plants available within the Netherlands would help fulfil this need.

This is a stunning textural firepit area. Brilliant use of terracotta and slate tiles that have be recycled and laid on edge. Using recycled materials can give a sense of time. This firepit not blends and becomes part of the landscape but looks like it has been there for years and is part of it’s history.


During the tour as we were driven around, I notice that all the homes had beautiful front gardens, each with its own design character. It seemed the Dutch take real pride in the frontage of their home. Unlike the UK, they do not brick them over and turn them into car parks.

Whilst the Dutch do love their hard landscaping, they believe that a garden is not a garden unless two thirds of it is dedicated to plants. They also believe that plants are far less effort than maintaining hardscaped areas. I would tend to agree with them.

This garden is brutalist. However, I do love the water rill that runs around the edge of the garden that reflects the clouds. The minimalist planting does help to lighten the heaviness of the materials used and the gravel surface aids permeability.

This garden reminded me of some Myan structure. Clever use of water used as a mirror, reflecting the structural walls. Not only does this create three-dimensional design on the surface but also under the surface of the water.


When he started Appletern, Ben’s aim was simple. We wanted visitors to experience the value gardens can add to their homes and how they could create the same feel within their own space. It was therefore important to design and create gardens that the visitors could relate to using materials and construction methods that they could understand. This would aid them to envisage the gardens in their own environments. To facilitate this, they also hold information days, courses, have a comprehensive website and network of the best gardeners and landscapers.

Beautiful play on circles using different materials. The weathered steel planters used at different heights creates rhythm and repetition in the garden. This is then continued with the clay pavers set into a circular shape on the ground. Vertical interest is created by the stunning multi-stem Betulas.


There are more than 200 different show gardens to experience at Appletern. The park is divided into five different regions. Each region has a different focus.

The pink section of the park is focused plants and visitors can look at planting combinations, how they are placed in the garden and how they work and interact with each other.

The show gardens in the blue section focuses on the latest gardens trends. This includes style, materials, furnishings, plants, colours and even the latest trend of ethos in gardens.

The orange section focuses on construction and structures. You can see the differences and materials but also how they are used in the garden. Appeltern provides a sketch centre and a consultation service.

The green section is known as Discovery Island, and rightly so as it can be enjoyed by children both young and old. It is a space where children can connect with nature whilst playing and older people connect with nature by walking through the gardens. There is a bamboo forest with hidden paths, bridges to cross, tree trunks to sit on, go under or walk along, muddy sections to play in and grassy slopes to climb.

The white section hosts a café, a plant nursery, thrift shop and an indoor garden shop.

If you are visiting the Netherlands, the gardens of Appletern are worth a visit. Whether you are looking for inspiration for your own garden or just fancy the idea of wondering around some beautiful garden this is a place not to be missed.

I have often said that colour in the garden does not just have to come through flowers. Look at what a bold statement the orange and pale blue make in this garden. It is the orange that really sets off an otherwise quite dull looking pot. 

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