Our wonderful Aromatic Garden Heerlijkheid De Levenboom is situated in the beautiful south west of our province Nood-Brabant, The Netherlands, just outside the village of Wernhout. The gardens form the setting of Kicozo’s campus.
During courses and workshops students can walk around the gardens and enjoy numerous perennials, annuals, bushes, shrubs and trees, as well as tropical plants and our meadow with grasses and wild flowers.
In the last few years owners Madeleine and Kees have been focusing on expanding their collection of aromatic plants. The plants are known for their contents of aromatic oils and extracts. Many of these (infused) oils, carriers, CO2 extracts and essential oils are used in AromaCare (aromatherapy). Other fragrant plants are favoured by buzzzing guests such as bees, butterflies and bumble bees.
As one enters through the drive way the old concrete feed storage slab is now used as a parking lot. On its left a majestic Scots pine protects the distillery with its extensive branches draped over the roof. Roses and elderberry keep it company, and a big old Olive tree leans against the outer corner of the building. On its right there’s a field with grasses and wild flowers with on its borders Thuja’s and Eucalypus trees. This winter (2020) we’ll be planting Douglas fir and other types of pines and conifers.
We also have Birches on that side of the garden, and a small frog pond, where Calamus grows. In this area you’ll also find Buddleja’s and Hazelnut shrubs, and a (for now still modest) Magnolia alba tree will show its fragrant white flowers in the spring.
Off the former old drive in front of the house, that is adorned by a row of old horse chestnut trees, there’s another meadow all the way to the large natural pond, with grasses intertwined with St. Johnswort, Daisy’s, wild Carrot and Achillea millefolium. And early next spring we hope to greet the first wild daffodils and tulips too.
At the back, sheltered by hedges and an old gate, is our cast iron angel, watching over the small terrace which offers views over Peppermint and Spearmint patches and Lemonbalm. Kees and I love sitting at our “angel’s” feet and enjoy the colours and fragrances.
We have designated quite a large area of that part of the garden to grow plants and trees that offer us carrier oils such as Sweet almond, Avocado, Rosehips and Sea buckthorn. Between the shrubs and trees, Evening primrose seeds itself and its fragrant yellow flowers attract bees and moths at the end of each day. Whilst St. Jonhs wort happily grows in our sunny meadow, our Comfrey loves the shade and cool soil of its own corner just off terrace.
In this part of our garden there’s a majestic, albeit weathered common Juniper near the big Cork oak and the Quince tree, the latter both being cherished memories of the time that Steve and I had our plot of forgotten vegetables and fruit shrubs there. In the sunniest spots you’ll find also Lemon verbena, Rosemary, Thyme, Fennel, Garlic, Celery and Chili peppers. Wild black berries try to sneak into the borders, yet we keep them under control. The fruits are actually really tasty and a memory of my mother who made her own blackberry jam back in the day.
Nearby is Rosemarie’s Garden situated, in honour of my friend Rosemarie. It’s planted with Roses, Lilac, Coronations and Honeysuckle, plants she loved and that are now visited by a variety of insects.
From there you can walk the path towards the head of our large pond, and especially in late summer I enjoy watching the bees and butterflies as they almost queue up to have their share of nectar from the Oregano flowers.
In the boggy meadow there, you’ll find reed and other grasses, protecting the fowl and frogs, and Meadowsweet too. Dragonflies and koi enjoy life in and around the pond.
Walking further around the pond you will then pass borders full of Mediterranean aromatics, such as Helicrysum, Lavander, Irises, Sage, Thyme and Rosemary. In shady areas Lemonbalm is thriving and the Cypress tree and a 20 year old Eucalyptus tree rises above the Damasque roses and Lavandin. It’s a lovely spot to sit down and enjoy the fragrances and views over the water.
Going around the pond you will reach the maturest part of the garden with large shrubs and trees, such as American sweetgum and Witch hazel. In a corner of that part of the garden you will walk past a sacred place. The large cast iron cross was found in an antique shop in the Ardennes and has been leaning against the remains of a weeping birch for 15 years now. Kees and I have many memories attached to the objects around the cross, such as lanterns and rocks, symbolizing loved ones who we’ve lost along the way. It’s a great place to sit and contemplate.
To reach the meadow again, you will pass the almost fully overgrown wall of our shed, a building which was the old bakery in the old days when our house was still a working farm. The Ivy flowers in November and is one of the very last sources of nectar for bees to help them through the winter. Oh, and don’t forget to say Hello to the friendly ladies sitting there for their daily chat…
Just behind the wooden fence where Wisteria flowers abundantly in the spring, there’s another terrace with a bench next to a huge Agave and opposite the Linden tree. An insect hotel functions as a room divider between this terrace and the next, where you can sit surrounded by grape vines and keep warm in front of the wood burner. Along this path you will find your way back to the house and our school.
On the way you’ll find numerous pots with more fragile plants who need shelter in the winter, such as Citrus trees, Myrtle, Aloe and Mimosa.
Have you enjoyed walking around this lovely garden with a purpose? It was designed and shaped by me, Madeleine Kerkhof, and my previous husband Stephen Knapp Hayes in 2005 at the sight of a fairly formal garden. After Steve died suddenly in 2011, I managed it myself. In 2013 a dear volunteer Jan Olsthoorn supported me with that every week. In the course of that year I made some changed to keep it manageable, and I met my love Kees who is passionate about the garden too. He and me are now happily married and blessed to live and work here.
Every season has its own attractiveness for students and visitors alike. Kicozo offers tours and workshops involving those amazing aromatic plants and their oils and extracts. We also offer courses and lectures in English. For more information you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org