Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crocus Carpet in Copenhagen

The King's Garden in Copenhagen

The idea of a crocus carpet under a large birch tree at my home has been in the back of my mind now for several years but it was going to the Kings Garden at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen this spring for the Design Leadership Summit that finally spurred my plan into action.  I am counting on unsuspecting Paul and my boys to pick up the bulb digging where I leave off!

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle is one of the many great Renaissance buildings in Copenhagen built by Christian IV (1577-1648).  The landscape design for the castle began in 1606 under the direction of Hans Konig and Martin de Cuder and their plans show that there were extensive areas for fruit, vegetable and herbs laid out within the castle walls.  Under Christian IV's son Frederik III (1609 - 1670), walking avenues in the Baroque style were added.

Plans for the King's Garden

The crocus lawn at Rosenborg as we experience it today is a contemporary feature added to the
garden park in the 1950's.  The lawn was designed by the Royal Gardener, Ingwer Ingwersen and Erna Sonne Friis in a simple, repeating pattern of different shades of purple and white crocus.  Old House Gardens describes the massive 36' wide x 525" long crocus lawn, as it springs into bloom:
 " From one end, the eye sails up the sea of crocus, more then 200,000 corms
planted in rich purple weave across the moat to the castle."

A portrait of King Christian IV by Dutch painter Karel van Mander II. 
 Could I ever command as imposing a figure directing the planting of crocus corms? 

I spent a whole morning obsessively measuring and photographing the crocus lawn. When I arrived at the Summit conference that afternoon I couldn't believe my luck in being seated next to Robert Truskowski ,one of the world's top landscape architects. What ever did I think I would ask him? My house is not formal but a sprawling old colonial with a Craftsman style addition, the focus being low key and cozy with all windows looking out upon the surrounding fields and stone walls.  I realized that the best plan of action was to leave Mr. Truskowski alone and perhaps go with the original idea of an unstructured naturalized crocus carpet that would bring out the beauty of our property's only birch tree.

Along with Snowdrops, Crocus are the freshest and brightest signs of Spring.

At dinner later that week in Stockholm, I dined with yet another of the world's top landscape architects (what are the odds?), Stephen Suzman of Suzman & Cole Design.  Stephen described the importance of incorporating historical elements and things ones loves into a garden to give it some personal depth and meaning.  This is something Rhonda and I always try to implement  for our interior design clients when decorating a home -  to make the project highly personal to the homeowner and to help them achieve a vision or long held dream.

That was it.  Time to realize my own vision.  Crocus Lawn, ho!

The crocus blooming in front of the Temple at Kew Gardens
photo: Kew Gardens

The plans for my crocus bed under the birch tree are now quite a bit looser then the Rosenborg Crocus lawn.  (Paul is breathing a huge sigh of relief!)  I am inspired by these photos from England of Kew Gardens (above) and the Great Lawn at Dartington.  (below)

Dartington, England

My birch tree in Connecticut, shaded in by a stand of Hemlock that need to be removed.

Bulb pots from the Skinner catalog of the Kadison Collection of Wedgewood.

And what if I run out of steam with piles of crocus corms languishing in boxes?  Forcing bulbs couldn't be easier and is a super solution for those of us with over zealous catalog ordering tendencies.  I covet these early Wedgewood Stoneware Bulb Pots (above), especially the faux agate one on the bottom.


A detail of Colchicum from a series of botanicals by
an Eleish van Breems favorite- Crispin de Passe's Hortus Floridus
photo from the collection at   Trillium Rare Prints.

The Crocus Ring

Come, show me a crocus ring,
That dances round a bush of green,
And I will make a lovely thing
To match the magic seen.

                         - Ivor Gurney

Some hardworking and helpful suppliers of crocus bulbs are our Connecticut neighbors
at  Van Engelen, Inc.  and  White Flower Farms  as well as C.J. Ruigrok & Sons.

There is also a fantastic article at the Hills Gardens of Maine website that will tell you everything you may have ever need to know regarding bulb pests and all sorts of different phosphorous fertilizers.

I can't wait until Springtime!