Amsterdam: Street Flowers and More

Amsterdam’s tightly packed streets and waterways don’t leave much room for conventional gardens, but its gardeners don’t let their lack of land hold them back. I’m always struck by the number of hollyhocks that grow semi-wild there, any crack along the street providing anchorage.

Some hollyhocks lean so far over they flower barely ankle high, others wave flower-topped towers well over my head.

Geranium windowboxes

Red and pink pelargoniums cascade from window boxes…

Hanging basket over canal railing with bicycle

or mingle with petunias and other annuals in paniers on bridges over the canals.

Roses in an Amsterdam street

Roses evidently do fine in barely more soil than the hollyhocks.

Container garden in Amsterdam street

Any patch of pavement means room for a container garden.

Colourful lampost by a housebarge

Houseboat owners have floating gardens and/or collections of containers where they moor. We saw many barges with roofs of sedums or other greenery.

Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus entrance covered in vines

This green wall is at the entrance to Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world. A peep inside? Go on then.

Pink phlox

I can’t show you tulips, as they were not in season. Phlox was.

Erythrina crista-galli (cockspur coral tree)

Erythrina crista-galli (cockspur coral tree) was producing its bold, scarlet, beaky flowers.

Butterfly on a hand

The botanic garden has a small but colourful butterfly house. One butterfly (possibly a blue moon?) landed on my hand and seemed content to stay there. Butterflies have taste receptors in their feet so it had most likely discovered salts on my hand. I’m happy to be food for a butterfly.

Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus palmhouse

The palm house would provide a great place to sit and read among its wonderful old specimens in wood and metal barrels, but our short time in the city meant we must press on.

Wooden bicycle

Amsterdam is renowned for its many thousands of bicycles, often discovered speeding directly towards you. The layout of the roads isn’t intuitive, especially for this visitor, used to driving on the left. Amsterdam seems to be designed for boats first; then bicycles; cars, trams, buses, scooters and trains next; last of all pedestrians who skirt edgily along in the gaps.

I’m not sure how practical a wooden bicycle would be, but I liked its brown wheels and chunky style.

Clocktower at Amsterdam Centraal Station showing wind direction

A clock hand swinging backwards on one of the splendid clock towers in the front elevation of Amsterdam’s Centraal Railway Station had provided a briefly dislocating welcome. The dial indicates the direction of the wind, useful to know when sail boats travelled the city.

Amsterdam roofline with elephant

Quirky rooflines are one of the  signature sights of Amsterdam. Sailor elephants, less so.

Painting of waterbirds and windmill

There were windmills to spot, albeit on the closed shutters of a store.

Guardman artwork | De Pijp

De Pijp in Amsterdam’s Old South is famous for its graffiti and its long street market (Albert Cuyp Market). We happened upon the market by chance and were delighted, although I’ve since seen various Trip Advisor reviewers turning their noses up at it. I’d love to go again and next time, not after a generous continental breakfast, so I could enjoy some of the reasonably priced food and drink on offer. I didn’t take any pictures of the market, usually a sign of being engrossed.

Amsterdam's colourful street life

I’ll end with something colourful and leafy to celebrate the atmosphere of this bustling European city.

32 Replies to “Amsterdam: Street Flowers and More”

  1. This all looks great fun. And I always love a city where the householders cram containers full of colourful flowers round their doorways, however limited the space.

  2. I really can’t understand how we never made it to Amsterdam. All those lovely houseboats and higgledy piggledy houses. And I have a soft spot for hollyhocks. When were you there? 🤗💗

  3. You had me at that very first peachy-pink hollyhock! I’ve heard that Amsterdam is a beautiful place but I didn’t know it sprouted hollyhocks willy-nilly — that seems to me to speak of a happy spirit to a place. A wooden bike? A sailor elephant? What an interesting city personality, even if perhaps a bit risky for pedestrians. I love the photo of the butterfly on your hand!

    1. I always forget about the hollyhocks, then wonder how there came to be so many. It’s as if someone has walked round with a very large seed packet, then the plants and the bees have taken it from there.

      Our city planners assume we are not very alert so bicycle lanes are marked out with pictures of bicycles or with a coating of a different colour. I suppose looking at rooflines and flowers doesn’t help either!

      1. Thanks for the laugh. Indeed, one can’t look everywhere all at once! We can’t be expected to protect our toes when we’re admiring roofs and flowers.

    1. I was initially sorry he was ‘in the way’ of the houses, but I’m glad I had second thoughts. I can see why a captain might prefer an elephant to be stationed on shore.

    1. It is. We glimpsed several interesting-looking allotment-style gardens we’d have loved to explore too from the train, just outside the city, but were not able to get to them in the time we had.

  4. I grew up with hollyhocks galore in my mother’s and grandmother’s gardens, so it was especially fun to see them running wild in the city. As a child, I always was as impressed with their tightly packed seed heads as with their flowers 9which I made dolls from). I didn’t know that butterflies ‘taste’ with their feet, either. There’s always something new to learn.

  5. Wonderful portrait of a city I would like to visit. I love the bursts of colors from the container plants. I wonder what folks use to feed the flowers.

    1. Just the usual stuff, I imagine, used variably according to the gardener. Some of these were definitely only fed by sunlight though!

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