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Valley gradually grows greener

It is not quite the get-up one might expect from a gardener. Winnie is wearing an ingenious harness that wraps around her entire torso. There is a large metal loop around her stomach and back and she is holding a piece of rolled rope in her hand that she can attach to the loop. ‘That’s to prevent falls’, explains her colleague Reinier van der Beek. As a planner at landscape gardening company Wencop Hoveniers, he is responsible for planting and maintaining the gardens at the iconic Valley. ‘Only very few of our staff are allowed to work on garden maintenance here. They have to complete a safety course first. After that, it’s a great job to have.’ He quickly adds with a smile: ‘But you can’t be afraid of heights.’


The Valley complex, completed in 2021, has become the eye-catcher of Zuidas in the space of less than a year. The building, designed by Winy Maas (MVRD), was named for its rock-like residential towers and the greenery that covers them. The design of this luxuriant valley was the work of the internationally acclaimed landscape architect Piet Oudolf. Maintaining it is quite a job – of course, all of these trees, bushes and flowers need a little help to grow. ‘Two regular members of staff spend two whole days maintaining it every week. Most of the work involves weeding’, says Van der Beek as we join him on his daily maintenance tour. ‘That seems quite often, but remember: the building is home to a total of 498 roof gardens.’

A hundred metres of rope

Apart from Winnie, the other regular gardener is William, who also wears a harness, like his colleague. Whenever they go up into a roof garden, they use the rope to attach the harness to the hooks in the ceiling or garden intended for that purpose. ‘If one of us happens to slip downwards, the other one should be able to save them by descending with them,’ explains Winnie calmly. ‘They can then attach a hundred metres of rope – the precise distance from the top roof garden to the so-called valley on the sixth floor.’ As she explains this, Winnie is skilfully pulling long stems of Canadian horseweed from the soil in one of the roof gardens. The container is full of it. ‘Are you also going to remove those poppies?’, interjects Reinier. ‘It’s not that I don’t find them attractive’, he then says to us. ‘But they’re simply not part of the design. And they’ll quickly self-seed into other gardens.’

Residents in bath robes

Because the balconies on Valley are tiered, it is impossible to access the roof gardens from the outside using a crane. This means that the gardeners have to go through the apartments to reach them. ‘Residents are notified in advance and have to be at home or leave a key’, explains Winnie. ‘There have been some mornings when we encounter lots of grumpy people in bath robes, she laughs. ‘But I totally understand – it’s not always convenient. In any case, most of the residents are very friendly and cooperative.’ Ensuring that all the plants are watered is much easier: all of the roof gardens are fitted with irrigation tubes that water them at set times.

Valley in bloom

As we glance across the valley from one of the roof gardens – the public garden on the sixth floor of the building – it’s noticeable how well the flowers are blooming. ‘That’s because of the sheltered position. Plenty of sun and minimal wind’, says Van der Beek. ‘Can you see that liquidambar, also known as American sweetgum?’ He points out a beautiful tree in the middle of the valley. ‘It’s really thriving. It’s now about 5 metres in height, but could easily reach 10. And it’ll probably spread at least three times its current width.’

Trees need a lift

Van der Beek adds that it will take a while before the plants start running rampant across the Valley façades and the treetops reach towards the sky. For example, again because of the tiered façade, it was impossible to hoist the trees up into the roof gardens. ‘That meant we had to take them all up using the passenger lift. It’s why we couldn’t use anything taller than 2.5 metres. Although they won’t get as tall as they would in nature, these trees will still grow around 5 metres in height. But that will probably take another three or four years.’

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