Wondering where to go for a late summer/early autumn weekend break? Well, if you’re a garden lover, the Dutch are hosting a not-to-be-missed event that’s wowing crowds and critics alike, and I was lucky enough to visit last week, just as it’s reaching its peak. Held once every 10 years, Floriade is a horticultural extravaganza, a purpose-built garden theme park showcasing beautiful plants, fabulous flowers and amazing designs from around the world. The Park is located just outside Venlo on the Dutch/German border, and is really easy to get to by train or car from Amsterdam or Dusseldorf airports, or drive from Dover like I did. To give you a taster, here are some of my highlights of the show, and ideas you can translate for your own garden.
This fabulous small garden (pictured above) is packed with ideas for contemporary living, but the feature that draws in visitors is this amazing tree-trunk table that dissects the space. The planting is stunning too, combining a medley of ferns, white ornithogalums (hardy, beautiful bulbs that are easy to grow in the UK), and sedges.
The planting throughout the park is to die for, and this bed of cannas and brightly coloured annuals, including French marigolds, caster oil plants, and snap dragons, convey a tropical look to an area beside a lake. Cannas are wonderful plants for summer colour; their large spear-like leaves in shades of dark red, bronze and green appear in late spring, followed by fiery flowers from July till late September.
If you’ve just returned from the sand and sangria of the Med, and want to recapture your holiday idyll at home, this design provides all the inspiration you’ll need. The stepping stones traverse a natural swimming pool, which simply looks like a beautiful pond, while the pretty mix of herbaceous plants and grasses soften the path edges. I particularly like the ceiling-height plant pots filled with golden sedges on the patio.
Holland’s climate mirrors almost exactly ours here in Britain, so take a brolly but don’t let the rain put you off. Wet-weather visitors should head for the spectacular Villa Flora, a giant glass building bursting with theatrical indoor plant displays. This leafy green wall caught my eye, and would look fantastic in a living room or even a bathroom. Filled with spider plants, peace lilies and philodendrons, it makes a cool, lush display. Treebox in the UK supply similar wall systems to help you recreate the look.
Making a splash
In this garden designed to lure in birds, bees and other wildlife, the shallow pebble pool edged with stone setts and animated with a stainless steel water feature provides the perfect centrepiece. The water jets pulse gently to create a subtle splash, and just look at that planting – as good as any Chelsea Flower Show Garden.
Shop till you drop
I love this novel idea in one of the Appeltern gardens (another great garden park to visit and not far from Floriade) [appeltern.nl]. The designer has simply nailed plastic shopping baskets to the fence to create this cool concept, and if you wanted to take the idea one step further you could drill drainage holes in the bottom of the bags, add some compost and fill them with flowers.
Small but perfectly formed
Most people in Holland have tiny gardens and the show certainly catered for those on a limited budget with limited space. This courtyard was a perfect example, with its colourful wooden fence, simple block-paved patio and easy-care shrub, perennial and grass planting scheme. The large fibreglass pot on the table is filled with the drought-tolerant alpine edelweiss, so will rarely need watering – inspired!
Less is more
The Dutch designer Piet Oudolf conceived this naturalistic planting style, which combines sturdy perennials and grasses that offer a long season of interest – all of these plants produce beautiful seedheads that look amazing in winter too. Here, you can see Sedum spectabile ‘Iceberg’ in front of Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinstern’ and the tall grass Miscanthus ‘Herman Mussel’.
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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert
View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert