Mien Ruys: The Mother of Modernist Gardens
Lund Humphries, 2023
From 1923 until 1980, Mien Ruys created over 3,000 gardens and landscapes. While most of these are in her native Netherlands, the influence of her designs and approaches spread far wider: many of us will have a little bit of Mien in our gardens, be it a railway sleeper, a diagonal line, a Phlomis russeliana or a water ball. Her work was extraordinary in combining two exceptional elements. Firstly, Mien was one of the leading proponents of modernist design: having trained and collaborated with architects such as Ben Merkelbach, Charles Karsten, Aldo van Eyck, Jan Piet Kloos, Hein Salomonson and Gerrit Rietveld, she introduced clean lines, geometric shapes and innovative materials into garden and landscape design. One of the few women members of CIAM, she was also one of the first to call for architects and landscape architects to collaborate fully from initial design onwards. She did so regularly, often on much needed social housing schemes, but also on schools, hospitals and nursing homes. All her projects shared a desire to offer users a better quality of life. One of her most well-known collaborations was with Gerrit Rietveld in Bergeijk on the Ploeg factory and Park, which has since been listed as a historic monument. Uniquely, she combined this modernist design approach with an extensive knowledge of plants and planting, which she learnt from a very early age in her father’s Royal Moerheim Nursery in Dedemsvaart. Her father had close links with international gardeners, such as Gertrude Jekyll, who greatly influenced Mien as she developed her own loose, natural style of planting. Her book on perennials, published in 1950, was internationally influential and, in seeking deeper understanding about plants and planting, Mien created more than 20 experimental gardens at Dedemsvaart, many of which are now also historic monuments. The book includes a foreword which sets Mien’s work within the wider context, as well as interviews with gardening experts and landscape architects who knew Mien or were deeply influenced by her work, which offer rich insight into Mien’s character and the timeless lessons which can still be learnt from her work.