The beech alley (berceau) divides the garden into two sections. Windows have been grown into the long hedges, allowing you to look into the garden rooms. The ‘green tunnel’ allowed the lord of the castle and his guests to stroll in the shade while enjoying the gardens. It was safe in the shadows because the rich valued white, untanned skin. Only farmers and laborers got suntanned on the land. Rich people wanted to stay as white as possible. Have you ever heard of blue blood? The blue veins of the nobility were clearly visible through their white skin.
The Warmoeshof is the vegetable garden where you will find the most delicious (forgotten) vegetables. It was the best way to ensure a steady food supply since Muiderslot castle was far away from the markets. And there were no grocery shops, supermarkets or delivery services. So, it was more than just practical to grow your own vegetables, it was necessary. The Warmoeshof is split up into four equal parts called ‘quarters’ (kwartieren). One for cabbage, one for carrots, one warmoesquarter for leafy vegetables, and a mixed quarter for beans, legumes, and other vegetables.
The Kruidhof is the herb garden, where kitchen, medicinal, and dye and ornamental herbs are grown. The garden grew produce that was turned into delicious meals for centuries. The medicinal herbs supplied the castle pharmacy. Yarn, wool and fabrics could be naturally dyed with the dye plants. The Kruidhof also served as a meeting place where the lord of the castle received his most important guests. The garden layout with its sober lines, shaped hedges and trees, and rare plants served to impress many a guest.
The castle gardens and the prune orchard behind Muiderslot castle were created in the 17th century at the behest of its then resident, the writer Pieter Cornelisz Hooft. He loved to invite friends to the castle when the prunes ripened on the trees. Hooft often concluded letters with his famous greeting: Tot in de pruimentijd (See you when the prunes are ripe). The prune orchard was recreated towards the end of the last century and features many different heirloom prune varieties. A notable feature is that they are all low trees. They were grown like this on purpose to make them easier to prune and harvest the fruit.
The gardens of Muiderslot castle are inside a military fortress. The ramparts were created in the 17th century. Trees were planted on top so their roots would reinforce the earth walls. They also served as windbreakers and supplied wood for fires and fences. Dense thorny bushes deterred attackers. And leafy trees hid the fortress from the water and surrounding landscape. Everything was done for a reason.
Did you know that the Muiderslot fortifications are part of the Stelling van Amsterdam, the city’s water-based defense line? It is so special that it is now a UNESCO world heritage site.