March 24, 2020

In September of last year, I visited friends in Brandenburg and Berlin; during which time I went to several interesting gardens and natural landscapes within the wider area – including this remarkable garden in Neuenhagen. In line with the genesis of Northern European naturalistic gardening traditions, this garden registers like a microcosm of natural landscapes – distilling many of their qualities (most notably their ‘impulse’) into a bounded space.

Continuing in the naturalistic tradition of great German plantspeople like Karl Foerster and Ernst Pagels, the owners of this relatively compact property have an astounding complexity of species and varieties. That said, this should not be viewed as a collectors’ garden, as the entire garden has been formed with great sensitivity and continual observation towards how plants interact on an aesthetic level.

One of the chief botanical interests for the owners, Gerd and Jute, is the multitude of species and varieties belonging to the genus, Aster (as demonstrated above and below) – especially those that achieve a degree of balance between flower size and growth form.

Amongst a wide array of rarities gleaned from many of Germany’s impressive specialist nurseries (especially those focussed on perennials and grasses), Gerd and Jute grew a plant that I have grown on occasion over the years at times when it is available – Kirengeshoma palmata (pictured below, on the right).

Its placement next to another robust perennial from a similar part of the world (the orange-flowered Ligularia dentata variety below, whose parent also derives from China and Japan) shows the manner with which Gerd considers plants’ characteristics, including colour and floral form, in association.

Although the garden’s diversity is heavily weighted towards perennials and grasses (simply due to the small area that each plant takes up), the margins of the site are defined by diverse woody plantings, whilst other shrubs (such as the member of the witch hazel family pictured below, Fothergilla major) are integrated within the matrix of the garden as structural elements.

The final image below shows how (akin to the use of native plants in NZ) certain categories of plants from natural landscapes in Germany have made their way into cultivation over the years. The grasses and silver-leaved Artemisia shown within this section of the garden is reminiscent of plant communities that I saw within significant ecosystems in the area previously occupied by a military facility near Berlin (at Doeberitzer Heide) – where species of Artemisia occur in dry meadowland and the frequently-planted European grass species, Deschampsia cespitosa, grows on the edge of woodland.