We all can benefit from having a touch of nature in our lives. Our lungs and our mood will thank us for it, and so will our guests and the planet.
Not to mention that should you ever sell your South Philly row home, the buyers will marvel at what you did with that postage-stamp-sized patio out back.
The Dutch have mastered the art of inserting nature and eco-friendly design into compact spaces over several centuries now. And while many of this year’s prize-winning installations at the annual PHS Philadelphia Flower Show are scaled to American suburban standards that would cause Dutch jaws to drop, there are also several that work in urban settings too. The landscape pros who created them can create Holland-inspired solutions for your pocket-garden challenge as well as your garden-variety one. Or maybe you might want to try the do-it-yourself designs the amateur gardeners who walked away with best-in-class prizes came up with for balconies and dining room tables. Check out these beauties:
(Above) “Composition” is one of several designs that takes its inspiration from abstract expressionist painter Piet Mondrian’s use of blocks of color divided by black lines to create energetic visions. This garden is well suited for urban environments. J. Downend Landscaping, Crum Lynne, downendlandscaping.com, 610-833-1500.
Got a little more space to work with? Burke Brothers’ prize-winner, “Spring’s Bounty,” showcases four different and distinct outdoor environments, including a recycled treehouse and an outdoor formal dining room. Burke Brothers Landscape Design/Build, Wyndmoor, burkebrothers.com, 215-887-1773.
If your space is more compact, you might consider enlivening it with “A Touch of Whimsy,” designed around a Dutch door and scaled for urban rear patios. Irwin Landscaping Inc., Hockessin, irwinlandscaping.com, 302-239-9229.
And if your outdoor space is on your home’s roof, Dutch landscape designer Bart Hoes’ “Sustainable Roof Garden” is your solution. You’ll be helping fight global warming with this design; its crushed olivine stones along its pathways bind carbon dioxide. “Even in a city-jungle, one must survive,” Hoes says, and this is a complete survival kit. Bart Hoes Green Architecture, Heemstede, Netherlands, barthoes.nl, +31-023 5443 707 / +31-06 53 962 693.
Did the folks who built your subdivision wreck a floodplain in the process? Help save your home and those of your neighbors with “A Sieve and a Sponge” from Refugia Design/Build Ltd. This wetland’s design is based on strategies the Dutch have implemented over the years to keep the water that threatens to inundate the country at bay without having to build more dikes and berms. Refugia Design/Build Ltd, Philadelphia, refugiadesign.com, 267-314-SOIL.
Have a seat at the pick-your-own-salad bar! This educational project created by students at Delaware Valley University outside Doylestown, “Sigh,” demonstrates how cities and nature can coexist in style. Self-weathering Cor-Ten steel, wood and plants suited to this region’s climate make this a stylish space for backyard or rooftop that can grow your dinner as well.
If all the outdoor space you have to work with is a balcony, you can still turn it into a green oasis with a little creativity. Members of the Moorestown Garden Club walked away with first place in PHS’ “Balcony” design class with this project, which imagines how a Dutch emigrant to New Amsterdam — ‘scuse me, New York — might recreate a little bit of the landscape she left in her own apartment.
Your indoor spaces look better with a touch of color and nature in them too. Participants in the “Tablespace” class were asked to give their settings the royal Dutch treatment, and the Rose Tree Gardeners of Rose Valley responded by imagining how the staff in Queen Beatrix’s household would set their breakfast table before preparing for that night’s jubilee dinner. (Beatrix abdicated, following Dutch custom, last year; her oldest son Willem-Alexander is now king.)
In the dining room, guests are transported back to the beginnings of the House of Orange with this table set and decorated by the Norristown Garden Club. William and Mary would both be delighted to dine here, I’m sure.
Finally, there’s design for very small spaces. “Exciting!” was how the judges described this stylish clear plastic pedestal with tulips created by The Garden Workers.
You still have the weekend to see these and many more sources of inspiration at the 2017 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. If you’re going with friends, however, I recommend you all go Dutch: tickets are $35 for adults.