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An Olympiad of Gardening – Netherland’s Floriade Flower Show


If flowers were an international language, then Floriade would speak volumes.

 

Labeled the olympiad of gardening, Floriade is a showcase of horticulture which takes place once a decade and always in the small country famed for it's windmills, wooden shoes and, of course, flowers. 2002 is the fifth Floriade in Holland and the broad theme of the exhibition is "feel the art of nature."

But, the boundaries of the event go well beyond the Dutch nation. More than thirty countries are participating from as far away as Costa Rica, Kenya, Malaysia, China and Russia. Their pavilions and specialty gardens make Floriade a world-class affair. For the first time, the United States is participating with a nationally themed garden.

Be forewarned, Floriade is enormous. It would be tough to see much if you don't have at least three to four hours and all day is definitely better. In terms of transportation, the park has a small trolley available for an additional fee. It will move you from one end of the park to the other, but it doesn't make stops along the route. Leg power is the way to go and the park is also handicapped accessible.

The park consists of three distinct areas: Near the Roof, By the Hill and On the Lake. Each section has it's own character and atmosphere. Each sets out to interpret the theme in its own way.

Big Spotters Hill. This part of Holland sits in the middle of a polder, quite an interesting concept in itself. Almost half of the Netherlands lies below sea level. Bit by little bit the Dutch people have had to reclaim their land from the sea. They make new land for their country by creating polders or landmasses through drainage. Can you imagine our leaders in Washington deciding to drain Lake Michigan and turn the land into our 51st state? Well, you get the idea. This year marks 150 years since the area of Floriade Park was taken back from the sea.

It was drizzling when we arrived at Floriade, so we first toured the inside section of Near the Roof. Overhead were hundreds of solar panels, believed to be the largest solar power unit in the world, integrated in a single roof. The entire park has many good photo opportunities, but this section is a photographers dream come true. This is where designers pull out all the stops to create exotic displays which require shelter. Around every corner is something clever and innovative, incorporating tropical plants, vegetables, shrubs, you name it! If anything could be described as a riot of color, this could.

Valley of Flowers.

By then it was lunchtime, so we ate at Taste. It's a self-service place where you tote your tray and pay the cashier. In keeping with the vegetable theme, I had wonderful mushroom soup, one of my favorites. Depending on where you're at when hunger strikes, there are at least a half dozen food options at Floriade.

We continued on to the central section which was inspired by the Dutch polder landscape. There are ten islands in the By the Hill area, set out in geometric patterns. You can't miss Big Spotters' Hill, a highlight of the central section. The stepped design was inspired by the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt and required 40,000 truckloads of sand to build. Great care was taken in creating the structure, down to the selection of grasses planted on it. If you have the stamina, you can climb a stairway to the top, or ride in their state-of-the-art driverless cyber cars. Atop the structure is a modern art piece designed by Auke De Vries.

The flower valley, in the On the Lake section was breathtaking, even with cloudy skies. We crested a small hill chatting and laughing, barely paying attention to our path, then suddenly below us appeared the valley ablaze in flowers. An ample amount of small purple flowers made a splendid contrast with all the reds, pinks and yellows.

All told it contains one million flower bulbs, which were still going strong in early May. Once the short-lived bulbs are gone, bright annuals and biennials will provide the color. This section also has the largest collection of water lilies ever brought together in one place, about 200 varieties, placed in a tranquil setting.In a scheme similar to Epcot at Disney World, surrounding the lake are other international exhibitors, including European and Asian nations. Large blocks of stone from Belgium were placed along the banks of the water, providing a convenient walkway.

These few sections are just a fraction of what Floriade has to offer. You must go and see for yourself. From a butterfly the size of a house to the tiniest flower, the grandeur and diversity of Mother Nature is revealed.

In true Dutch fashion, a dike crosses the park, with the requisite sheep nibbling grass on the embankment oblivious to us all. When the big show is over in October, parts of the exhibition will remain as recreational areas for the local people. It would be a shame after all, to let all this hard work and loving care go to waste.

I'm living proof that you need not be a green-thumb type to enjoy Floriade. During it's run from April 6 to October 20, three million people are expected to visit.

A one-day admission ticket to Floriade costs 17 euros, children 4-12 are 8.50 euros. Since the park sits very near Schipol Airport, the major airport serving Amsterdam, special transportation has been arranged. For more information, go to www.floriade.com or www.floriade.nl.

In a scheme similar to Epcot at Disney World, surrounding the lake are other international exhibitors, including European and Asian nations. Large blocks of stone from Belgium were placed along the banks of the water, providing a convenient walkway.

These few sections are just a fraction of what Floriade has to offer. You must go and see for yourself. From a butterfly the size of a house to the tiniest flower, the grandeur and diversity of Mother Nature is revealed.

In true Dutch fashion, a dike crosses the park, with the requisite sheep nibbling grass on the embankment oblivious to us all. When the big show is over in October, parts of the exhibition will remain as recreational areas for the local people. It would be a shame after all, to let all this hard work and loving care go to waste.

I'm living proof that you need not be a green-thumb type to enjoy Floriade. During it's run from April 6 to October 20, three million people are expected to visit.

A one-day admission ticket to Floriade costs 17 euros, children 4-12 are 8.50 euros. Since the park sits very near Schipol Airport, the major airport serving Amsterdam, special transportation has been arranged. For more information, go to www.floriade.com or www.floriade.nl.