Garden architects

Jan van Opstal and Jo Willems come from the stage – and have made a name for themselves in Holland as virtuoso garden architects, and not just with their Heerenhof.
When Jan van Opstal and Jo Willems started to create a garden on the grounds of the Heerenhof in Maastricht, there was only wasteland. Today, visitors walk through numerous garden rooms and come across the Folly at the end of the 125-meter-long plot – a building made of collected field stones, old bricks and other building materials from junk dealers. The slightly terraced grounds were designed as a small stage, which can be accessed through a wrought-iron gate. The “Big Daddy” funkie grows in the two terracotta pots.


In early summer, the slightly elevated terrace right next to the house is revealed in all its glory. A bluebell tree, “Paulownia”, provides some shade in the midday sun and also gives the Japanese waxflower at its feet some protection. A wisteria has taken root on the clinker garden wall – a romantic picture in which the late garden architects did not want to do without the southern-inspired clay pots from Italy.
Jan van Opstal used to be a dancer and still works as a choreographer today. His partner Jo Willems trains actors. They now also work as garden architects with their own studio on their Heerenhof farm. There you can see the whole variety of her green plans, which range from the intimate scene under tendrils to a formal design with straight lines and clear symmetries.
A small scene on the terrace shows a garden bench and a large iron goblet that was discovered by the lords of the Heerenhof in Portugal. In the meantime, ivy has taken over the garden furniture – in front of the stately ball of trimmed boxwood and the flower balls of the allium.


In the past, artichokes were only known from visits to restaurants in Provence or Italy. In the meantime, this relative of the thistle has also made its way north as a pretty border green. The silvery, sharply serrated leaves are simply eye-catching, and their spherical flower heads wilt beautifully.
Little discoveries at the Heerenhof in Maastricht. These include the lily plant “Nectaroscordum siculum ssp. bulgarium” from southern Europe with its hanging umbel flowers. This light blue clematis hybrid climbs up a trellis lime tree and matches the color of the sky-blue iris, which is now in bloom in early summer when the garden is open to visitors at weekends.

Summary from “Living 03/2009


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