Having heard so much about Floriade in the Netherlands, I was keen to experience this world famous European garden event held every ten years and looking forward to two days soaking up the atmosphere in Venlo, a magnet for horticulturists and gardeners alike. Admittedly, I was anticipating a flower-fest of grand proportions with a strong eco influence and so arriving late May in cool, wet conditions, I found the landscape was a little drab at first view.
However, there was plenty of evidence of new massed garden bed plantings timed for the Summer, with very interesting colour and texture combination of annuals, perennials and grasses for inspiration.
The giant pair of gumboots (should they have been the traditional Clogs?) at the entrance was certainly a talking point with the crowds on arrival – very big shoes for Floriade to fill. I chose the cable car for an overview of this vast site and then one of the many restaurants for generous serves of coffee and cake while deciding where to explore first.
The Floriade garden brochure featured five distinct regions with numbered features under the headings; Education and Innovation, Relax and Heal, Green Machine, World Show Stage and Environment with strong emphasis on touch and feel activities for families.
Lots of tree and shrub nurseries featured their new releases in landscaped garden displays, farmers in their vegetable plots demonstrated the harvesting of white asparagus and strawberries to share with the crowds while advanced topiaries featured strongly in formal displays or just by the side of the path in the form of a large sofa to seat six.
There is literally something for everyone’s taste here from the quirky to the wow factor and so, after much deliberation and looking at hundreds of photos, here are my top ten specials:
- The Dome (Environment) As the people filed in to a darkened Dome they formed around metal support railings to look up at the ceiling to see pulsating lighting displays and striking video overviews of Dutch Horticultural and Agricultural programs accompanied by energising music keeping up the beat.
- The grassy setting for the Summer Concert under the Stars (Environment) with its sweeping white canopy, seating and stage (located near the chairlift) would be perfect for those balmy nights to come.
- Floriade’s take on the fire eating metal Healing Dragon (Relax and Heal) was a very effective display featured in one of the many water gardens.
- The grassy-haired Twins (Relax and Heal) – very unusual sculptures in a walled garden setting and very popular with photographers.
- Green Living Lounge Room and Dining Room (Relax and Heal). It’s a theme done before but I have not seen anything like this with a table set for 10 featuring plants including succulents and ferns and organic food on the menu naturally!
- The heated Orchid Treasures pavilion (Education and Innovation) with rare tropical plants and Orchids such as Vandas to enthrall orchid enthusiasts like me.
- Bloomin’ Holland floral display pavilion (Relax and Heal) featuring unusual floristry innovations such as the ready-to-buy flower filled trolley and sky-high floral arrangements.
- Floriade Street Theatre with regular parades by Angels on Stilts, Spanish Trumpet bands, acrobats and a crazy live performance tribute to asparagus harvesting on the days I was there.
- My Green World (Education and Innovation) with interactive, mechanical displays of modern horticulture in action using water and energy saving principals. The taste testing of fresh fruit and veg. were very popular.
- The Floriade “Sushi Train” (Environment). I loved the carriages featuring plastic animals, flowers and vegetables which, when removed from the track and placed on an electric pad in front of you, played an audio description of the item’s origins as well as current food or floral production information in The Netherlands.
Considering the vast area Floriade occupies, I would rate the presentation 8/10 for design, innovation and inspiration and there were many areas such as the World Show Stage and some of the perimeter walks that I chose not to see due to time restraints.
The nursery and agricultural industries, supported by the Dutch Government providing valuable support to their businesses, went to great effort to design and promote the message of the Five Themes and modifications were being made even while I was there so it is still a work in progress. The themed areas that I saw were often original, sometimes humorous and well presented.
For gardeners, horticulturalists, landscapers and sight-seers and the tulip fanciers, there is plenty to see and do or just sit and watch the world go by in a one of the many cafés, restaurants or the cable car.
Floriade, Venlo is a one-off experience in modern horticultural display and well worth a visit!