Floriade is an international horticulture exhibition / garden festival held in a different part of The Netherlands every ten years. While it attracts garden-loving members of the public, its aims go beyond that.
We want to bring governments, businesses, scientists, education, exhibitors and visitors of the Expo together to share knowledge and work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. – Floriade Expo 22
This year Floriade has taken over the Weerwater in Almere, a short train ride from Amsterdam. It’s theme is ‘Growing Green Cities’.
The Netherlands is sometimes called the land of flowers. Eye-watering numbers of trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs have been used to create the expo which stretches out over a 60-hectare site. Unlike most UK flower shows that only have to stay fresh for a week or so, each Floriade runs for six months. I’ve never been before and did not know what to expect.
EuroParcs was one of the sponsors, and their wonderfully textural garden was my favourite planting. It added an extra layer of interest to imagine how the garden must have changed between the start of the show in April and our visit in late July.
There may have been a time when we could visit a horticultural show and experience unalloyed happiness, but those days are over. Two giant bears, called Beehold, stand in the centre of Floriade that may either be waving a greeting to visitors, or trying to attract our attention and alert us, depending on how we view them.
The bears have fuzzy outlines because they are made from metal bees. Most bees are smiling, but some have unhappy faces. Florentijn Hofman, the artist, is reminding us that the balance between mankind and nature is disrupted, even as Floriade celebrates international horticulture and tries to visualise a more hopeful, greener future.
Anyone seeing a busy shipping hub for the first time (I’m thinking of Hong Kong) will have been shocked and amazed by miles of piles of metal shipping containers. In the Urban District’s Flevo Campus, shipping containers have been repurposed as offices where potential food entrepreneurs learn and network. I liked this installation with its subtle colours and textures and easy blend of old and new.
Other tiny houses on show included one with a hobbit-like design and a green facade. You can see it in my sweetheart’s highlights from the show. Be sure to scroll around while you’re there!
If offered the chance to stay overnight, I’d have leapt at it. Imagine waking in the morning as the sun is rising, yawning, stretching and stepping out into… Floriade.
For anyone who saw my Bad Hair Day post, this is a ‘better’ picture of the Treeport Zundert garden, showing its colourful tiles, curvy lines and cloak of ferns and grasses. The garden was inspired by Van Gogh who was born in the Zundert region where many tree nurseries are based.
The Dutch have a consultative style of government known as ‘the sharing economy’ or ‘the polder model’. Creating polders (areas of land reclaimed from the sea) required a willingness to work together for the greater good, to set aside differences, and balance competition with joint interest. In keeping with these traditions, tree growers at Floriade have got together to showcase ‘soil as a solution’. They also donated many trees for the expo.
Treeport Zundert’s ideas for sustainable housing include heat storage in the soil, green roofs and water conservation.
Cable cars sweep visitors over Green Island and back again, revealing the grid system layout of trees, gardens and temporary pavilions. After the expo, the site will be turned into a residential area, Hortus, which will push the boundaries with a ‘green dip’ style of planting. This means maximising greenery around the buildings so that they are immersed in green, then studying the effects of specific trees etc on buildings and the billions of city dwellers (wildlife, including insects, is included in the definition of city dwellers).
Lucky future residents will enjoy the aesthetic and spiritual pleasures of living amongst plants as well the practical benefits they bring. Trees, for example, cool their surroundings, improve air quality and attract and support a diverse ecosystem.
The Voice of Urban Nature explains that one of many goals for Hortus is to build a city where nature is seen as an equal partner. While its needs are routinely ignored in cities, other than in terms of the uses and benefits nature has for humans, in Hortus, the natural world will be accorded a ‘voice’.
The earthy, pinkish panels throughout this exhibit are made from hemp and dyed with the roots of rose madder (Rubia tinctorum).
Near the entrance to the Green House, I was so taken by the finer details of this mosaic, such as the frog, the flowers, the spotted shoes, fried egg(?) and brush(?) that I caught myself idly wondering what kind of strange bird this is. For anyone similarly afflicted, I’m planning posts that will take a closer look at my favourite parts of the expo, and will reveal all there.
A smart bracelet would have allowed me to interact with parts of Germany’s Biotopia pavilion, but wanting to be outdoors, I turned down the offer. So your guess is as good as mine about what this colourful, kitsch, part homely, part sci-fi watering system is showcasing. Several parts of the show were designed to engage children, and this could be one of them.
At any horticultural show, you’ll see ideas that intrigue or please you. The EuroParcs garden was mulched with various types of nut shells and soft fruit pits, such as these peach stones. I’ve seen shell mulches before, but never peach stones.
I suppose these are bird houses, though their entrances are puzzling and they have no perches, so someone may know better. (My imagination is playing with thoughts of a bird big enough to squeeze through the hole in the bottom right box sitting inside it. And of bats flying sideways to get inside the top middle one – or hungry baby birds, that must not get too fat to fly the nest. And hoping a small bird, entering with wings by its side, would not topple head first into the bottom middle one). As purely decorative items for a modern garden, I liked them.
I loved the gate with its sturdy wooden structure and airy, richly coloured woven panels. It gave a feeling of privacy while allowing visitors to look inside.
Talking of airy, I have seen this style of fencing before, although each one is individual. I’m not sure how easy it would be to source if you’re not particularly handy. The table around the sapling with its flower-like section of trunk and open construction charmed me too.
If this looks a little untidy, we have to be mindful of the mental adjustments a partnership with nature would entail. It’s not weeded, it isn’t even, some of the bark remains for insects, yet it looks beautiful in a beachy kind of way.
This oversized woven seat caught my eye too: more of a nest than a chair.
Thinking of seating reminded me of the sinuous lines of a wooden garden bench that looked out from the Wilde Weelde garden over the Weerwater to the city. Doesn’t Dutch seem to be a wonderful language?
If one garden truly seems designed to be perfect for humans, birds, animals and insects, this is it. The whole outer wall of the garden was a giant insect hotel.
We saw so many insect hotels at the show, I’m half-considering a post on them. Elsewhere, slices of trunk, some decorated with child-like line drawings of flowers, were fastened to posts.
Floriade has several areas where people can leave messages, many of which are invocations to nature. This one stole my heart, not just for the optimistic ‘Flowers are the solution for everything’ message, but for the personal message too.
It struck me that by taking a picture and sharing it here, I could help send the message on its way to the moon and back, and out around the world. (Do you know the route a picture takes to get from The Netherlands to my house, then on to yours?)
I was sorry that the UK was not represented among many country exhibitors at Floriade. New plant varieties are generally at the heart of our major flower shows. There were new varieties on display here, including this beautifully variegated pink and green caladium, but it was refreshing to see focus on appreciating and protecting what we have, rather than the quest for the next new plant cultivar that will most likely have been forgotten when the next Floriade comes around .
I’d be surprised if any visitor with a camera could resist taking a few pictures of the Wolunie pavilion with its glass frontage.
Sunlight was being used for energy to convert water plus vegetable material to natural dyes. A bench facing the glass wall made a great place for the footweary to linger.
I’d have loved to see the show when the tulips were in flower, though that does seem churlish with so many mid-late summer flowers and plant combinations to enjoy.
How wonderful it must be to have Floriade close at hand. I thought of that a little regretfully yesterday, walking through the local woods back in Darwen as the evening started to draw in. Yet Floriade simply wants us to make the most of nature on our doorsteps, in whatever form it takes. And a bit like the planned buildings, I’d been immersed in a ‘colourful dip’ of flowers while I was there.
Floriade Expo 2022 runs until October 9, 2022 (open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) then will return in ten years at a different location.
By then, we’ll be able to see how far the green city, Hortus, is living up to its goals and aspirations. Meanwhile the Expo is already benefiting the local community: our Almere ferryman was eager to tell us how the transformations of the last few years have given him a new pride in where he lives.
I realise that most readers will not be able to visit Floriade in person, but if your interest has been piqued, and you’ve not been satiated by my sweetheart’s and my pictures, you can get a really good flavour of the Expo by exploring one or more of the themed routes on the Floriade website.