In this series, we are interviewing members of our club, so that you can get to know each other a bit better. Today we talk with Diederik Schwaanhuyser about his life and work in the region.
What brought you to the French Riviera?
In august 2019 I visited some friends who live in Le Rouret. At that time I was already in the proces of deciding to leave Amsterdam, where I had lived for more than 25 years. I wanted to live somewhere with more nature, less noise and a bit warmer, but I had never considered the Côte d’Azur. But while here I thought “why not here?”.
It was actually greener than I realized and I have always felt good here in the warmth and the abundance of light. Then in November that year I returned, scheduled some meetings with people in my field and almost everyone assured me there would be enough work in landscape design. So I took the big step and on January 1st I moved here.
My first job was at English Garden in Valbonne. Then after a year I left and set up my own company: The Rose and the Dragon.
I love nature here. The variety is immensely rich. Did you know that almost 1/3 of all European species are naturally found here in the Alpes Maritimes?
The extention of the mediterannean plantpalette was a very natural one to me.
The climate here with its mild winters and warm and dry summers create enormous possibilities for plants to use and the hills and sloping terrain with its often amazing backdrops are so wonderfull to work with.
Could you tell us about your professional career? What do or did you do for work?
I am a garden designer. And I really love what I do. I make gardens for private clients, whether it’s a balcony with pots or a 11,000 m2 ancient monastery converted into a garden.
For me, the very essence of a garden is that it takes you away, even for a tiny bit, out of your life, into nature, just where you are, home or office.
It can be just a pot with jasmin spreading its scent on your balcony on an early summer morning or a dragonfly landing on a rose aside of your pond, or the immersing looks of your garden blending in so perfectly with the hills in the distance, and enhancing your feel of connecting to the landscape.
The art to me is to create something beautiful and natural given the setting.
For the last 21 years I have been working in this field. in different roles. Although originally I graduated with a business degree and worked for a few years as a company consultant, it wasn’t making me happy, so I went back to school and got my landscaping degree followed by a planting design diploma from a school in London.
The combination of working with nature, creating something and building fits me perfectly.
Plants have always been my passion. From a very early age on where I always joined my grandmother working in her garden, or later when I was exploring the dunes and field in the small town I grew up in or as a teenager when I made some money weeding and planting in gardens of neighbours.
What does your company do?
Garden design and consulting on good quality maintenance.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Because I love the freedom of working according to my own style and my way of connecting to people.
What is your best advice to others thinking about living or working on the French Riviera?
Learn French. Really.
The only way to understand why things work the way they do here (and often don’t seem to work) is to communicate with french people on a real functional level.
Aside of that, build up your network. Meet people. Exchange.
This business club is a very nice source for that. I have met a good number of really nice people here. Work wise but also socially. And the meetups are really good fun!
Fun facts about Diederik Schwaanhuyser
Since when do you live on the French Riviera?
Since 1 January 2020.
Where are you originally from?
What languages do you speak?
Dutch, English, French and German.
What is your favourite wine?
A very interesting mediterannean mix of Viognier and Gewurztraminer I found last summer at the Super U. It’s called ‘la Criée du Port’.
What is your favourite spot on the French Riviera?
My favourite spots? there are so many but I think a small hidden beach on the rocky coast line where there aren’t many people or the valley of the Siagne behind St Vallier de Thiey would be among my favourites.
What French word do you find difficult to pronounce?
None I can think of at the moment but I am sure there are. 🙂