Gardening – part of every day in Holland

Some of my previous post have mentioned the difficulty we warm-blooded Australians face in venturing to the world’s largest Horticultural show (IPM Essen in Germany) during the midst of the European winter.  However, this year something else caught my eye whilst in Holland prior to the show.

The Dutch see and treat horticulture and gardening as a central part of their culture and everyday life – something they’ve been world-famous for over the centuries, with tulips even being involved in what is considered one of the first financial / economic bubbles.

Whilst making my way through central Amsterdam I was lucky enough to come across the annual TULPENDAG.   During this event, the tulip Industry brings an amazing amount of “forced” tulips to the Dam Square where they then proceed to give these away for free to the general public as a promotion for the industry.

Crowds line up to get their free tulip bulbs during Holland's annual Tulpendag event.

Crowds line up to get their free blooming tulips during Holland’s annual Tulpendag event.

Volunteers offer free tulips to the public during Holland's annual Tulpendag event

Volunteers offer free tulips to the public during Holland’s annual Tulpendag event

Trays of free tulips

Trays of free “forced” tulips abound during Holland’s annual Tulpendag event, bringing a touch of hope and spring to a dreary winter day

In the depths of winter to see this spectacle and the joy surrounding it   – all linked to flowers and plants was refreshing – and reminded me of the differences in culture and position of the gardening psyche around the world.

In our part of the world if invited for dinner at a friend’s house, it is common practice to bring along a bottle of wine as a gift for the host, whereas in Holland for almost every event – from dinner parties to birthdays – flowers or plants are the accepted offering.  The florists and garden retailers put together some amazing combinations that are ideal for use as table centers or on the patio.

Floral Gift Plant display

One of many creative floral displays for Holland’s fabulous gift plant industry


Elegant hostess gift

A simple yet elegant floral arrangement makes a perfect hostess gift!

Gardening is often seen as a chore in my part of the world and possibly yours – a task that needs to be completed (and invariably includes lawn maintenance).   However, in talking to gardeners in Holland, I found their motivation to be not so much about completion of the task at hand, but the experience and creative aspects of decoration and design.  They enjoy creating constantly changing gardens and their process is far more plant-focussed than lawn-focussed.

Obviously, seasonality plays a big part in behaviour but looking at the challenges of making adjustments to hard-scaping in winter conditions, you do have to be very motivated and have a clear vision of the end result that you want to achieve – a result that won’t become visible until many months later.    I came across a great example of this when I noticed that the landscape work was just beginning (in the midst of winter) at the newly renovated Rijksmuseum, and look forward to seeing the completed project when I return this spring.

After years of renovation work to bring the building back to its former glory, the Rijksmuseum is close to completion, while landscaping is just beginning.

After years of renovation work to bring the building back to its former glory, the Rijksmuseum is close to completion, while landscaping is just beginning.

Anyway, next stop is IPM Essen in Germany, which always manages to inspire, and I look forward to seeing what catches my eye this year and motivates me to try replicating in my own garden (usually with much frustration).

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