Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Hortus-CurvesAmsterdam seems to be famous for many things . . with the exception of botanic gardens, yet ‘De Hortus’ was the world’s first, so I’m especially delighted to visit.

Hortus-Botanicus-AmsterdamIt is probably the smallest botanic garden I’ve ever been to, but at 1.2 hectares it remains a tranquil and refreshing oasis in the midst of a busy city, thanks largely to the curving layouts, always focusing the visitor inwards.  It also reeks of authenticity, probably because it is was originally scientifically motivated, though today aesthetics have been added that make it a delight to wander through.

Lily-PadsVarious glasshouses hold important collections of exotic species, including Agaave in the impressive Palm House and Butterflies and Cactus also have their own enclosures.

Tropical HouseAnd a three climate hot-house would have you believe you are somewhere near the equator rather than chilly northern Europe.

Palm-HouseOriginally created in 1638 as a medicinal herb garden to supply the local apothecaries and medics, this very centrally located garden has grown to now contain over 4,000 different plant species from all over the world.

Hortus-VenusThis was initially due to the connections with the Dutch East India Company which brought back untold botanical delights from far flung shores and needed some knowledgable people to nurture them.

The most famous case in point being the Coffea arabica plant.

Koffee-SignHaving built a lucrative trade in coffee beans with Arab traders the Dutch decided to cut out the middleman and grow their own, starting here in the De Hortus greenhouses, then exporting young plants to Batavia (Indoneisa) to grow large scale plantations.

The coffee craze was sweeping Europe and a gift of coffee bushes was made to Louis 14th of France who then exported cuttings to colonies in the Americas, where it eventually found its way down to Brazil.  The rest, as we say, is history.

CoffeeSo as we sit and enjoy our double-shot espresso in the elegantly imposing Orangery cafe, we remember that  it all started here at Hortus Botanicus, over 375 years ago, just outside the old walls of Amsterdam, on newly reclaimed land in the world’s first botanic garden.

As they say here . . “Dank U Well,” or thanks a lot.

P.S. the Dutch are also to be thanked for bringing so many natural delights to the world apart from coffee – like tulips, carrots and a plethora of shrubs, flowers and bulbs.

Author: Bob Saunders (www.gardensonline.com.au)

Keukenhof – a floral extravaganza

Without doubt one of the world’s greatest annual flower events, Keukenhof never disappoints, even if there’s an unseasonably cold spring season.   At Keukenhof this just means that the outdoor growth is retarded, but there’s still a floral extravaganza awaiting visitors inside the many pavilions.


The Vast Tulip Pavillion Keukenhof

This is a place dedicated to tulips, in fact it is almost a shrine, but then the humble tulip has probably contributed as much to the Dutch economy as any other commodity over the centuries, so it does, perhaps deserve more than a little reverence.


Tulipa Triple A

The refined and intense skills of the horticulturalists are all on display here with a mind boggling array of varieties, many of them stunningly beautiful, especially in the soft light of these huge display greenhouse pavillions.

TulipsYellow - otherwise known as Strong Gold

Tulipa Strong Gold

It is quite amazing how many variations of colour can be coaxed out of the classic vase shaped blooms and every year new varieties appear to delight the eye and boost the export coffers of the growers.

Tulipa Queensland

Tulipa Queensland

But sometimes, cleverness just goes too far.  I’m sure some will say this Tulipa Queensland is beautiful, but for me . . . well its just plain silly, having created something that belies the character of the tulip.

Narcissus Hea Moor

Narcissus Hea Moor

With over 7 million bulbs planted at Keukenhof every year there are plenty of other spring flowers included.  Daffodils are always the beacon of spring and again, the flower breeders manage to discover new facets of these vibrant blooms.

Narcissus Trepolo

Narcissus Trepolo

Narcissus being their botanic name, this variety seems to typify why they were given that name.  This one is called Narcissus Trepolo and its as if it knows its got’ it’ so its going to flaunt it.

Later blogs will show you more of the huge array of flowers at Keukenhof this year, but for now I’ll sign off with one of the most simple, but for me the most stunning.

The humble crocus

The humble crocus

The source of all saffron – the humble crocus.

See a selection of latest hybrids tulips from this year’s exhibition here.

Author: Bob Saunders (www.gardensonline.com.au)