A very interesting ecological garden that is unparalleled when it comes to cooperation between nature and people.


In fact, a rubble garden looks a lot like a prairie garden if the used rubble is evenly distributed over the soil. In that case, no ground improvement needs to be done. Such a mixed rubble layer forms an ideal growth layer for drought-resistant plants and lime-loving plants, because stony demolition waste, tiles, stone rubble, excavated building soil, gravel, concrete residues and more often contain a lot of lime.

The soil life in the garden soil layer under the rubble automatically ensures an ideal mixing, which provides a very surprising and rich range of possibilities for plants. They then grow in poor calcareous soil that is enriched from below. A very special and interesting situation. You will get a garden that will be absolutely unique. The vegetation can be controlled or left to itself, but more on that later in this article.


Above we only talked about the (free)flat surface and a more or more horizontal garden. But you can also build great with rubble and create completely new possibilities. A hilly or even rocky whole can then arise that offers different shapes and conditions everywhere. With places where water is retained or rinses out, so great differences between dry and wet. Whether or not supplemented with soil or just the bare rubble as a growing place for plants. Let your imagination run wild and build an unparalleled garden with rubble. In which children can play, climb and clamber endlessly, where the sunlight plays a fantastic game of light and shadow, in which small animal life finds optimal opportunities. In such a rubble garden you are always surrounded by small mammals and amphibians, There is a richly varied insect life and birds and bats will be regular visitors. You have then created something that offers maximum opportunities for life in endless forms. And that on the basis of waste that people – especially in cities – produce everywhere.


With a rubble garden you not only create a unique place for plants and animals, but by reusing rubble, you reduce the mountain of waste that comes from the cities. It can range from very minimalistic and virtually without financial investments to quite avant-garde. It will always be exclusive and unique, because the way you build your rubble garden will never be repeated in the same way. What arises is partly determined by the rubble.

An example: Suppose you buy a ruin with a nice piece of land around it on which you are going to build a new house. Then don't dispose of the demolition waste, but keep it and make a unique rubble garden with it. You can build such a garden with anything: tiles, brick chunks, sills, roof tiles, concrete, gravel, old vitrified clay pipes and sinks. Whatever comes out of the wreckage. Be careful with wood residues, because they can rot over time. There are rubble horticulturists who also use that, but we cannot recommend that. Decaying structures can collapse or even collapse and become dangerous.

'A rubble garden doesn't have to cost much. What you invest is time and manpower. Because creative rubble horticulture means carrying around.'


Suppose the house you are going to demolish has a basement and you can use that basement as the start of your rubble garden - your new house will be in a slightly different place - then tear down the basement walls two-thirds and use the bottom of your basement as a layer located pond. Excavate the soil from the walls above at an angle of up to 45 degrees in all directions and start the construction of your rubble garden on those slopes. Combine everything you come across, have, or get hold of in terms of material. Do not use cement. A rubble garden is permanently stacked, not bricked or glued. Air, soil and water must be able to fill holes, seams and openings without hindrance. Make sure that there are strong connections between the different layers by stacking them overlapping each other. By stacking from the outside in. So always away from you and a little further back, you will get the strongest constructions. Straight up walls and walls require the strongest construction. That listens very closely and must be done very carefully. In this way, natural stone has been built for thousands of years. It might as well be with rubble. You are probably familiar with the stacked walls with which meadows are demarcated everywhere in Southern and Western Europe, terraces are built and entire buildings have been and are being erected. The Netherlands does not have that much stone, so construction was mainly done with wood, loam and branches, the roofs were made of coarse grass, reeds or sods. But many people have a special feeling for all those stone constructions that are made stone by stone by human hands. In many mountain areas that have already been partly abandoned – often because of poverty – over time, the remains of the walls and terraces are still clearly visible. Sometimes even after hundreds of years.

'Fitting and measuring with rubble is an art that you master as you go. It's great to do. Building a rubble garden involves intensive contact with earth, stone, water, animals, plants and time. The feeling of endless time.'


In the summer of 2012 died in Oranjewoud (Friesland)the Dutch artist, teacher, professor honoris causa and writer Louis G. le Roy, who described himself as 'ecotect'. Early in his life (born Amsterdam 31 October 1924) he developed very special ideas about people and nature. Man should not control nature, but must coexist with its enormous power and ever-increasing complexity. This complexity can also be realized in the human environment, but requires long-term interaction. People usually want results very quickly. Landscape architects and nature developers also prefer to see that a site that becomes available today will be ready tomorrow. With everything that goes with it, plants, animals, etc. They will figure out how to do that. They have their recipes for that. But that's not how it works, according to Louis le Roy. We humans can't even approach the complexity that nature builds. We can, however, create conditions and circumstances that allow nature to proceed at its own pace and insight. That is also the background and idea of a real rubble garden. Every garden has its own special development if not everything is hoeed and contained, but that certainly applies to a rubble garden.

At the end of the 1960s, the municipality of Heerenveen gave Le Roy a piece of parkland of 1 km long and 20 m wide to put his ideas into practice. He built all kinds of rubble structures and dry stone walls with residual material from the city (mainly a lot of paving waste) . He also applied different types of soil in it, which he didn't do anymore. Nature was allowed to take its course after a first impulse. The 'Wilde Tuinman' as Le Roy was called thus created an enormous contrast with the neat little gardens in the vicinity of the park. That 'wild' was not appreciated by everyone. Nature was the starting point in the park.

In most gardens that the Dutch make, plants that come from all parts of the world grow. The original wild species have often been thoroughly overhauled (altered) , which almost always means that special properties are magnified. Flowers become larger and show more color variation, leaves become more beautiful, smell stronger, etc. Plants that have adapted to what people want to see through nursery art should also preferably do it wherever we want. That is different from what nature wants. Nature strives for more complexity and a refined response to the possibilities offered by the circumstances.

Le Roy was particularly interested in the long-term processes that made this possible and wanted humans to play an active role in this by creating habitats based on waste from human society. He was concerned with a new kind of collaboration between nature and man, in which man is a co-creative element in nature. This approach is still partly recognizable in the Le Roy park. The whole is now managed systematically by the municipality of Heerenveen.

In the 1970s, Le Roy – after he had also been working with stone waste at his own house – started a much larger project on a plot of land in Mildam: the Ecokathedraal. He made an agreement with the municipality of Heerenveen that rubble from the municipality would be dumped on his land and that continues to this day. With that rubble, Le Roy – much like Gaudi in Barcelona with his Sacrada Familia project – started his Ecocathedral project. As the cathedrals were built for hundreds of years in the Middle Ages, Le Roy started to build his rubble cathedral. He embarked on a process with no definite end. Without using cement, he processed stones, tiles, curbs, etc. into towers, walls, terraces and surfaces. Without a preconceived plan. Le Roy wondered what one man can do and he just started building. By hand and with endless time ahead. He was part of the process that he himself initiated.

The constructions were fitted together by him – and now by his successors – in a completely organic way. The rubble itself formed, as it were, the structures that arose through the form possibilities that the rubble offered and offers.

Le Roy stated at the time that the project could take up to a thousand years. The whole could reach a height of 300 m.

Le Roy's intention was that plants would overgrow the structures according to their own preferences. He did put out plants as a start, but then nature would be allowed to do it itself. After his death, the progress of his ideas and the construction of the Ecocathedral was transferred to the Time Foundation, which organizes an event every year to monitor and draw more attention to the very lengthy processes that Le Roy pursued.

In 1973 Le Roy's book 'Turning off nature, turning on nature' was published in which he explained his ideas in more detail. In 2000 he was awarded the oeuvre prize of the Fund for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, one of the various prizes he has been awarded. In 2008, the site in Mildam (four hectares, avg. Heerenveen) on which the Ecocathedral will be realized was officially designated by the Provincial Council of Friesland as a zoning plan 'Ecocathedral process'. It sounds unbelievable, but the aim is to carry through the plan at least until the year 3000. Until then, it is a great object of study of the processes that take place there.


This lies in three related questions that Nobel Prize winner, physicist and philosopher Ilya Progogine asked: 'What can nature do? What can living people do? What is a living organism capable of.'

These three questions have never been answered conclusively.


In Le Roy's philosophy, his Ecocathedral mainly represents the world. It's an evolutionary project. Man is part of nature. Man and nature together form one large ecosystem. If man's 'free energy' (his physical and mental faculties)used in conjunction with other forms of nature, it automatically makes the system more complex, sustainable and beautiful. The condition is that space and time are available for this. As Le Roy himself put it: 'Through maximum use of human free energy and that of all other organisms, existing and new ecosystems can be developed successively to sustainable higher complex levels. The idea is: the more complex a system, the more freedom it can create. And the effect of freedom is that an ever higher order can arise. That is an absolute fact in nature. And the order that nature makes is more complex than the order that we humans make. That is why we always have to consciously create a basis on which nature can continue. We still do all kinds of things that nature invariably works with. A process then arises, but as far as the human part is concerned, there is hardly any insight into the consequences of what we do.

Think, for example, of what happens to the plastic that we release into nature. Nature does something with that, but we don't know exactly what and where that leads.

Many ecologically focused ideas are about circulating materials in a cycle outside of nature. We isolate ourselves from nature in a natureless ecosystem.

Le Roy chose a different direction: do it together with nature. Learn from nature. Study the processes. Nature is much stronger than us. In the end, nature always wins. Whatever we do. It certainly applies to the period of major climate change in which we now live.

The enormous possibilities offered by the idea of a rubble garden: reusing waste together with nature. And that according to the sound principles of nature and not according to the imperfect man-made principles that we like to give priority. In that regard, we are only at the beginning of the discovery of countless processes.

When you consider creating a rubble garden, you are taking the first step towards a new partnership with nature. Nature has been making its own heaps of rubble for billions of years and is doing something with it. We can learn from that.


Summarized from his book 'Ecokathedraal, Friese Pers Boekerij 2000 (source: Archined, Urban TV 30-1-13) :
'The contemporary urban environment is a preformed environment. The human being is a spectator, not a participant. He lives disconnected from space and time. Within that limited ecosystem of the city, it is hardly possible to develop a natural system, a complex society in which time is given space and space is given time. Such a new development – together with nature – would mean a fundamental change. A change that is at odds with the current structures of politics, money and rules.'


Due to the enormous variety of materials that rubble offers, the vegetation in a rubble construction automatically becomes extremely varied, surprising and fascinating. There is no manuring, no spraying, no animal life or fungi in a real rubble garden. The plants must maintain themselves. The food for the plants mainly rains from the air where there is an excess of nitrogen. Nitrogen rains, especially during thunderstorms. Dead plant parts and any pruned material are not removed. The initially poor, stony soil thus becomes richer over time, so that the plant worlds that grow there also change in composition. The ecosystem is becoming more complex. In the beginning you can put plants of your choice in a rubble garden. The garden will accept these itself or change your choice. It's an adventure


Compared to a flat garden on the same surface, a rubble garden with significant height differences has a much larger outer surface and a much larger interior space. This offers enormous possibilities for natural temporary storage of rainwater.


With a rubble garden you provide an extremely surprising, organically created stone structure and therefore very different growing conditions. Alternating high and low parts. The soil that is placed between them can also be very different. The rubble is sometimes calcareous, sometimes calcareous. You will see spontaneous storage arise in addition to what you put in yourself. It then becomes an extremely varied ensemble of stone, water, grass, annuals and perennials, shrubs and even trees. And with the plants there will also be a rich animal life. It all finds its own way. Make the space and give it time.

You may need to read this article twice to appreciate the vision behind something as simple as creating a rubble garden. But when you work with nature to re-use human waste—in this case, debris—you're actually doing something unimaginably bigger than we can see.

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