Holland: Floriade 2012

Once every ten years Holland puts on a big show. It’s called the World Horticultural Expo. This year, amid lavish swathes of bloom, it is focusing on green living and sustainable agriculture, a future where waste equals food, and soil, water and air are healthy gifts for generations to come.

If that sounds heavy, it isn’t. How about watching a dragon that breathes fire? Or climbing up to a giant bird’s nest? Or taking a ride on the tramway? And there is the unexpected. High fashion sweeps across a water runway or poses beneath chandeliers. An outrageous cow and other broad splashes of humor bring smiles. Street theatre actors and musicians amuse and surprise. International pavilions invite exploration. And finding the Willow Man in hundred-year-old woods is a challenge for kids and grown-ups, too.

The Dutch have been doing these expos in different cities since 1960. When each six-month-long expo ends, its site becomes permanent, dedicated to special uses. This year’s Floriade is being held in Venlo, a city in the heart of the biggest agricultural area in Europe. Eventually the grounds will become a sustainable, landscaped, wooded business park.

For Susan and I, the whole affair was a feast for the senses, literally, even to the faint aroma of copious quantities of manure that gave plantings their lushness. The diligent maintenance of plantings that we observed warmed our hearts (after all, we didn’t have to do it), but we were cut to the quick when we found out that there were plants for sale and we couldn’t buy any.

We spent a solid day at Floriade – not long enough to catch it all – as part of a Uniworld river cruise through parts of Belgium, Holland and Germany. Had we gone in April, we would have seen acres of tulips, instead of billowing waves of perennials. Most of these pictures are from Susan’s camera. If you want to see more, visit her Picasa website:


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