By: Deb Pavlosky
I imagine that not very many people get to live in their dreams, even just temporarily, but that’s exactly what I got to do this summer. A planned family reunion in Germany turned into an opportunity to take our kids on an adventure in the EU. We took some time narrowing our destinations (over the better part of a year) and the sights we would choose to see and we ended up with an itinerary that included The Netherlands, Italy and Germany. We had approximately one week in each locale and we took advantage of our time in each spot.
For the next few newsletters I will be sharing a little international plant-spiration from each locale. Do with it what you wish; I came home thoroughly inspired to try some new plantings (once our weather cools) and to travel more too.
It was very hot for most of our trip and The Netherlands was no exception. Amsterdam and surrounding areas recorded some of the hottest temperatures ever. There were no fans left on the shelves and no one has AC (including our AirBnB). But, the nights would cool down much more than they do here at home. The cooler night climate and generally cooler climate year round allows their plantings to flourish more than ours. That’s my theory, anyway.
While in The Netherlands, we actually stayed outside of Amsterdam in the village of Edam. Edam is a very picturesque place with canals lined with small boats of all kinds, charming little front yards filled to the brim with plants and wonderful little shops and cafes and cheese markets. Just imagine sweet cobblestone homes with canals all around and cobblestone streets lined with dahlias and hydrangeas and snowball viburnum with butterfly bush and geraniums and petunias and scaevola and black-eyed susans too. Oh! and lets not forget the water lilies in the canals.
The canals, oh the canals! What a way of life that must be – to hop on your boat to head to work or school or shop. I am incredibly jealous. But, what was truly special about the canals became more evident at dusk. At dusk, the calm waters turned into magical mirrors with the reflections of clouds and nearby homes and surrounding greenery. I know my pulse rate slowed and my eyes lit up every time I walked the streets along the canals and this was especially true at dusk. Honestly, I can totally imagine the Dutch Masters painting at any number of spots in this little area.
Most people in The Netherlands seem to garden in some way even though most homes have very small plots. There were window boxes and pots overflowing with some combination of geraniums, petunias, scaevola, mandevilla and more. If there was a front yard, it was chock full of blooming plants. The most beautiful shrubs I saw in Edam were altheas that had been grafted with three different bloom colors – they were just absolutely fabulous. I have put a bug in the ears of the powers that be here and I am hoping we can have some of those in the future.
In Amsterdam proper, even the house boats had plantings overflowing with blooms. There are currently around 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam. There are no more open spots for them, so that is it. I saw so many pots with succulents, roses, mixed plantings with geraniums and small trees as well.
One thing in unending supply in Amsterdam were bicycles. There were bikes upon bikes upon bikes everywhere. Honestly, how do you find your bike when it’s parked among hundreds??? And, we learned that if there was ever an altercation involving bicyclists, one bike would invariably end up in the canals. We actually saw them pulling bikes out at one area. Our driver told us that he had sent a few bikes into the Amstel himself.
Homes in Amsterdam tend to be very narrow – property taxes used to be determined by the width of a home. No matter how narrow, many people find space to garden in small containers and in rooftop settings. Many homes in Amsterdam also have courtyards and shared gardening spaces that cannot be seen from the street. Oh, I would love to secretly tour those little gardens.
So, there is no mention of tulips, because it just wasn’t the time for them. I am most definitely going back some day while the tulips are blooming. I can only imagine the magic that must be.
So, here I am, dreaming of going back and how to make my landscape feel a little dutch. Check back next month to enjoy plant-spiration from Italy.