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Home > Archive > Russell Page Archive: The De Poortere Gardens, Kortrijk

Russell Page Archive: The De Poortere Gardens, Kortrijk

On a street in Kortrijk, West Flanders, Russell Page designed gardens for three brothers: Franck, Jean and Carlo De Poortere. They are among his first projects in Belgium, a country in which he would become so active that he later declared ‘la Belgique, c’est moi’.

  • Frank De Poortere, Courtrai, Garden Plan

    RP/1/5/6/2

    c.1952

    50 x 65.5 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    An undated pencil and ink design on tracing paper, marked ‘Projet d'un jardin a Courtai pour M. Frank De Poortere’ (scale 1/200). The plan shows the whole garden arrangement with the various elements indicated: the kitchen garden (‘potager’), the lawn (‘pelouse’) with the rectangular pool (‘nappe d’eau’) beyond, the garden area for shrubs and flowers (‘jardin d’arbustes et fleurs’), the sunk garden and the weeping willows (‘saules pleureurs’). The circular pool (‘bassin’) in the corner between the kitchen garden and the rectangular pool is shown although not marked (see RP/1/5/6/3).

  • Frank De Poortere, Courtrai, Garden Plan

    RP/1/5/6/3 

    May to June 1952

    69 x 76 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil and ink design on tracing paper, marked ‘Monsieur Frank De Poortere, Courtrai, Projet de jardin’ (scale 1cm to 1m). Drawn up on 29 May 1952, it was modified on 4 June. The plan shows the area of the garden behind the house which encompassed the kitchen garden, lawn, shrub and flower garden, and pools (the layout follows that of RP/1/5/6/2). Measurements are included, as is the planting scheme.

  • Frank De Poortere, Courtrai, Jardin Creux, Lower Terrace Planting

    RP/1/5/6/1

    c.1952

    46 x 55 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    An undated pencil and ink design on tracing paper, marked ‘Plantation terrasse inférieure, Jardin Creux, M. Frank De Poortere’. The plan shows the sunken garden to the rear of the house; the planting scheme, which included pentstemon rose, aster amellus and aubrietia, is indicated.

  • Jean De Poortere, Courtrai, Pre-Project Garden Plan

    RP/1/5/6/4

    September to October 1953

    56 x 57 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil and ink design on tracing paper dated 9 September 1952, marked ‘Monsieur Jean De Poortere, Avant projet jardin’ (scale ½ cm/M). It was modified on 20 October 1953. The plan shows the proposed layout for the garden, composed of the following elements: a waterlily pond (‘bassin avec nenuphars’), grass (‘gazon’), shrubs and flowers (‘arbustes et fleurs’), paving (‘dallages’), an orchard (‘verger’), an area for perennials (‘plantation plantes vivaces’) and a dovecote or sun dial (‘pigeonnier ou cadran solaire’).

  • Jean De Poortere, Courtrai, Second Garden Plan

    RP/1/5/6/5

    November 1953

    57 x 56 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated 9 November 1953, marked ‘Monsieur Jean De Poortere, Projet 2’ (scale ½ cm/M). As in RP/1/5/6/4 the whole garden arrangement is shown, and only a few amendments have been made.

  • Jean De Poortere, Courtrai, Hardy Perennial Planting

    RP/1/5/6/6

    January 1954

    42 x 75 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil and ink design on tracing paper dated 29 January 1954, marked ‘Monsieur Jean De Poortere, Plantation plantes vivaces’ (scale 2cm/M). A plan showing the proposed planting scheme for the area of the garden given over to growing perennials (among the plants included are roses, delphiniums, irises, asters and dahlias).

  • Jean De Poortere, Courtrai, Oval Garden Planting

    RP/1/5/6/7

    February 1954

    48 x 60 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil and ink design on tracing paper dated 5 February 1954, marked ‘Monsieur Jean De Poortere, Plantation l'ovale’ (scale 1cm/M). A plan showing the proposed planting scheme for the oval garden (among the plants included are buddleias, viburnum and magnolias, as well as four weeping willows).

  • Carlo De Poortere, Plan of Garden

    RP/1/5/6/8

    June 1959

    52 x 46 cm

    ©Estate of Russell Page

    A pencil design on tracing paper dated June 1959, marked ‘Propriete de Mr Carlos[sic] De Poortere, Plan de masse schematique seulement’ (scale 1/500). The drawing shows the proposed layout of the garden, with areas of trees and shrubs indicated.

De Poortere residences on WolvendreefKortrijk, West Flanders, Belgium 

1952 to 1959

Archive of Garden Design Ref: RP/1/5/6 

In 1952, the Belgian carpet manufacturer Franck De Poortere and his wife asked Russell Page to develop a new garden for their house at 28 Wolvendreef in Kortrijk (on the plans, Page uses the French spelling Courtrai). Starting, it seems likely, almost from scratch, Page broke down the site into a series of separate zones: a front paved area, a sunken garden, a kitchen garden, areas of lawnshrubs, fruit trees and ponds. Although there are only three related plans in the archive (RP/1/5/6/1 to RP/1/5/6/3), together they show every element of the garden design. Three parallel rectangular bands are shown running perpendicular to the rear of the house: a large lawn is flanked on one side by the kitchen garden, and the shrub garden on the other. Each of these areas leads to a different water feature – a circular pond, rectangular pool and narrow canal – which in turn create their own rectangular water garden when viewed on the lateral axis. The individual areas were generally enclosed, and thus divided, by rows of hedges and yew trees. 

It is a garden which Page chose to describe in some detail iThe Education of a Gardener  

‘In front of the house and its paved terrace there is a plain stretch of grass with two or three trees planted for shade. At the far end of this lawn I made a large rectangular pool to reflect the sky and act rather like a sunk fence or ha-ha to separate the garden from the meadows beyond. High hornbeam hedges frame this lawn on either side, the one on the left hiding the kitchen garden, while that on the right forms one side of a rectangular hedged enclosure only about 150 feet long by 50 feet wide. I designed this whole space as a thickly planted garden of shrubs only. The basic pattern is very simple. I made a wide grass path down the middle and narrow grass paths next to the hedges on all four sides. These leave a long bed about eighteen feet wide on each side of the central pathway. I divided this bed into wedges by more narrow diagonal grass paths and then planted these quite formal beds with groups of flowering shrubs of all kinds from two to ten feet in height. These make a rich and interesting planting through which you can still sense the formal pattern which underlies the whole garden. I adapted this particular pattern from the William and Mary garden which lies next to the sunk garden at Hampton Court and which was originally designed as a formally planted parterre. The design remains though the beds are now full of overgrown shrubs. Within the formal limits of my pattern I felt free to work out plantings in which I had only to consider pictorial values from close to, and thus only in terms of the details of foliage and flower and habits of growth.’ (186)

Not mentioned specifically by Page in The Education of a Gardener, the drawings reveal several of the plants that he suggested for the garden (see RP/1/5/6/2 and RP/1/5/6/3 especially), including red leaved plum trees (Prunus pissardi Nigra), weeping willows (saule pleureur) and a line of Hazel trees with daffodils and forget-me-nots (‘ligne de noisetiers avec narcisses et myosotis au pieds’).  

The underlying structure of the garden remains largely as Page envisioned it to this day but, over the years, several areas have been modified by other garden designers, including Jacques Wirtz and Willem Bursens. The most significant example of these changes is the construction of a swimming pool and pavilion on the site of Page’s kitchen garden.  

The garden was given listed status by Minister Geert Bourgeois in 2015, in order to protect it from planned demolition. It is now undergoing restoration under the supervision of the Flemish authorities for Monuments, overseen by Paul and Antoine Deroose, and they are using plans from the Russell Page Archive to return the garden to its original state. There remains some uncertainty, however, about aspects of Page’s design. For example, it is not known whether he planted the four large trees in the front garden and, if he did, the size to which he would have wanted them to growSuch issues were reflected upon by the Russell Page Archive Council on a visit to the garden in 2018, an account of which can be read on the Garden Museum’s website 

Franck’s brothers Jean and Carlo, who were also involved in the successful carpet factory established by their father Louiscommissioned Page to design their gardens also. Less is known about these projectsThe plans drawn up for Jean include two, very similar, of the whole garden (RP/1/5/6/4 and RP/1/5/6/5) as well as a detailed drawing of the oval water-lily garden (‘jardin avec nenuphars’) and the section of perennials (plantation plantes vivaces’) located nearby (RP/1/5/6/7 and RP/1/5/6/6). Only one, relatively informal, design for Carlo’s garden remains in the Page Archive (RP/1/5/6/8).  

Literature

Bekaert, Piet and Arend Jan van der Horst. Tuinen in Vlaanderen. Die Keure, 1986.   

Bekaert, Piet and Jean de SejournetTuinen in BelgiëLannoo, 1990. 

Page, RussellThe Education of a Gardener. Harvill, 1994. 

van Zuylen, Gabrielle and Marina Schinz. The Gardens of Russell PageFrances Lincoln Ltd, 2008. 

Vizor, Rosie. “La Belgique – C’est à moi: The Russell Page Archive Council Visits Belgium.” Garden Museum, 9 November 2018, https://gardenmuseum.org.uk/la-belgique-cest-a-moi-the-russell-page-archive-council-visits-belgium/.