Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cruising to Floriade 2012

Cruising to the Floriade

Flying into Amsterdam in spring, the bulb fields below are
a Hockney-style patchwork of vivid red, yellow, purple and
white. It is the first of many sights to delight a gardener
bound for a river cruise through the heart of Europe,
from Amsterdam to Budapest.
When I visited the Dutch capital last month, the trees were in new leaf and the very canals seemed to blossom, their houseboats decked with pots of tulips and ingenious container gardens. Later came the superb Italianate gardens of the Würzburg Rezidence; wisteria shinning up the lamp posts in medieval Rüdesheim; and the Johannisfriedhof, one of two historic "rose" cemeteries in Nuremberg, where famous citizens such as Albrecht Dürer rest among avenues of flowers.
But the highlight of our trip was a call at Limburg, where the once-in-a-decade floral extravaganza known as Floriade runs from April to October. The event is staged this year at Venlo – self-styled "region of flans, asparagus, mushrooms and beer".
To those more accustomed to Chelsea, Hampton Court or Malvern, Floriade, it must be said, is a slightly puzzling affair – a six-month World Horticultural Expo, more green Olympics than flower show, with participants from as far afield as Afghanistan, Yemen, Bolivia and Bhutan.
This lends a bombastic touch to proceedings. There's a lot of video razzmatazz and, in the manner of London's notorious Dome, quantities of showy buildings with nothing much to see in them. On the plus side, the sheer scale of the project is jaw-dropping – five themed exhibition areas set among 160 acres of lake and woodland, planted up with 1.8 million bulbs, 5,000 rose bushes, 190,000 perennials and 3,000 trees.
Floriade is first and foremost a showcase for the Dutch horticultural industry, and nowhere will you see more superb plantsmanship – perfectly grown trees and shrubs, immaculate cloud-pruning and resplendent displays of massed bulbs.
Like so many garden festivals, Floriade is also a development project. In its future guise as a business park, the lofty entrance arch (reminiscent of La Défense) will one day house "innovative sustainable agribusiness", while the carbon-neutral Villa Flora exhibition hall will become the "greenest office block in the Netherlands".
With such a vast site, it's impossible to see it all in the meagre morning that most tours allow. So be ruthless – ignore the official guides and hone in on the highlights.
The largest indoor flower exhibition in Europe, the Villa Flora definitely falls into this category. Eye-popping blooms dangle from test tubes and spill from airborne shopping baskets; flowery tops spin on carpets of moss; climbers romp up lamp posts and twist among chandeliers. In contrast, single orchids are exquisitely displayed in a white, cloister-like corridor. It's an impressive spectacle.
To help you appreciate how essential the colour green is to our wellbeing, the Living Pavilion merges inside and out, and features a dining table overflowing with herbs and a fireplace "ablaze" with flowers.
There's family fun to be had, too, in the Education zone's Bee Garden, where you can work out how successful you would be as a bee by selecting flowers on the basis of their pollen levels. Also in this area is a spectacular tropical greenhouse, designed by CenterParcs and surrounded by a maze-like bamboo garden.
In the Israeli Hidden Garden, based on the Seven Species (two grains and five fruits mentioned in the Bible), you'll find gaunt vines recalling the Jewish menorah, and stark red rocks symbolising the six points of the Star of David. These features lend the garden a seriousness and tranquillity that really set it apart.
Among the many fascinating exhibits about trees, perhaps the most intriguing is the row of trees suspended in sacks like giant hanging baskets. Ever wondered how trees arrive safely at Chelsea Flower Show? Now you know.
With sustainability a major theme, the sponsored NL garden is the place to stock up on design ideas – from inventive vertical planting schemes to a snazzy way of concealing bins, and a car port that doubles as a charging point for an electric car thanks to its solar-panel roof.
Sustenance can be found at the World Show Stage area, with its food stalls and show pavilions from all corners of the world. Highlights here include the exuberant Indonesian pavilion, a conceptual garden by Korean artist Jihae Hwang (his lavatorial garden stole the show last year at Chelsea), a traditional Chinese garden and the Spanish Pavilion, fashioned from outsize coloured pencils.
But for me, the star of the show, and an antidote to all the glitz, was a circle of fruiting trees, which were in blossom when I visited. Each corresponds to a phase of the Celtic lunar calendar and denotes a character type. I discovered my family includes a "stubborn sensitive" (fig), an "independent fighter" (cypress) and a "lusty pioneer" (ash). It's good fun and a beautiful piece of planting.
There's plenty to entertain non-gardeners, too, with a gondola ride and all kinds of bands and street theatre. And after a hectic day at Floriade, you'll be more than grateful for your luxurious ship as you float on gently down the Rhine, enjoying water meadows full of wild flowers and orchards heavy with blossom, without having to walk a single step.

Three cruises that visit Floriade

AmaWaterways offers this seven-night Vineyards of the Rhine and Moselle cruise, with a visit to Floriade, departing August 19, 2012. From £1,395pp, including entry to the show but excluding flights. (0808 223 5009; www.amawaterways.co.uk)
Scenic Tours offers a 15-day Jewels of Europe cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, with a visit to Floriade, departing between May and September 2012. From £2,695pp, including flights and entry to the show. (0161 236 2444; www.scenictours.co.uk)
The River Cruise Line offers an eight-day Rhine In Flames cruise from Dover to Cologne, with a visit to Floriade, departing August 7 and September 4 and 10, 2012. From £859pp, including entry to the show. (0844 544 6437; www.rivercruiseline.co.uk)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Floriade 2012: World Horticultural Expo in Venlo

Dear flower lovers, not necessarily connected to New Age thinking, if you have not already done so, do not hesitate to buy tickets to attend Floriade 2012! Floriade is a one of a kind World Horticultural Expo which is staged every ten years. This year’s 6th edition is expected to hold 2 million attendees and it will take place in Venlo, central-eastern Holland, between April and October, with plenty of shows open to the public during the day, and also during the evenings in the summer months.
photo by halbetreppe
If acres and acres of blooming plants of all shapes and sizes were not enough to fulfill your yearn for beauty, the programme is filled with cultural extravaganzafrom all over the world, ornate with music, dance, literature, visual arts at every moment of the festival.
Floriade 2012′s tagline is “Living Nature”. It really sounds like there can be no better way than spending the blooming and summer months’ holidays in the midst of the natural colours and smells of flowers. It is, however, important to keep in mind the controversies around the flower industry, due to its issues of environmental and social sustainability associated with growing flowers in developing countries. Flower production for consumers’ whims necessitates a lot of water and fertile land, very scarce resources in countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, where, especially in times of drought, the priority should be to grow food.
Compared to previous editions, Floriade in Venlo is transformed from a supply-driven exhibition into a veritable green experience. As well as celebrating the beauty of nature, the festival promises to be a platform for innovation, socially responsible business and sustainability, in order to bring consciousness about the flowers we buy, their certification, whether Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance or MPS, as well as appreciating the hard work put into growing them by many women and men, some of them living on brink of the poverty line. For instance, Floriade opens the doors to conscious consumers’ dialogue at an event on the 23rd of April on “Influencing food behaviour and change” to focus on sustainable development objectives.
Remember, if you miss this one, you’ll have to wait until 2022! So don’t linger any longer… get your tickets now!
For more information about the programme and to buy tickets please visit Floriade 2012′s official website.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Asparagus season opened festively at Floriade 2012

After a number of openings of the asparagus season in the west of the country, the official kick off for the season took place near the asparagus growing areas, at the Floriade. Under the watchful eye of culinary and asparagus loving Holland, Albert Verlinde was named as the asparagus ambassador of 2012. Besides a buffet diner and live cooking show, invitees enjoyed a fashion catwalk, based on asparagus and the premier of the theatre play Arise.

Pieter Smits, chairman of Stichting Dubbel A, an establishment for promoting asparagus, said he was proud of the opening. Despite only 1 percent of the world's asparagus fields being in Holland, the Dutch asparagus has left its mark all over the world. A reputation which is, thanks to a big history of continued research, which has placed the Dutch asparagus among the worlds best. "With today's opening we certainly upheld this reputation." Smits emphasizes the health benefits, that the asparagus consumption brings. "When I stand on the scales at the end of June, I'll have lost at least 15 kilos!"

Chairman Paul Beck of the Floriade called himself a happy man, now that he could receive, besides Queen Beatrix, the Asparagus queen of 2012, Diane Vlemmix from the Limburgs Horst, in the Floriade. "The white gold is the crown of the Dutch horticulture, it's that important for the Dutch export."

Albert Verlinde was named the new asparagus ambassador, as the successor of Paul Fagel. Verlinde received the first box of asparagus and the document from Smits. Smits christened him Triple-A (Asparagus Ambassador Albert). 

Stichting Dubble A organises the yearly opening of the National Asparagus season. In Dubbel A the following parties are represented: Aceera Ltd, Brabants Asperge Genootschap, Confrérie de l’Asperge Limbourgondie, Nationaal Aspergemuseum de Locht, the Greenery, and ZON Fruit and Vegetables. 

Many traders, cooks, growers and interested people were present at the opening of the asparagus season. Click here for a photo report

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Floriade 2012 is one of the world's top destinations!

International flower exhibition Floriade 2012 makes the Netherlands one of the world's top destinations!
This year Holland has a great present for all the flower lovers in the world! Floriade – the world horticultural expo, organized in the Netherlands once every 10 years is open for visitors from 5 April to 7 October 2012.
Once every 10 years since 1960, the Netherlands hosts Floriade, an international flower exhibition.

Previously staged in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Zoetermeer and Haarlemmermeer, this year Floriade will take place in Venlo, focusing on the theme “Be part of the theatre in nature, get closer to the quality of life”.

Visit five different worlds!

The Floriade Park covers 66 hectares and is divided into 5 unique themed worlds: Relax & Heal, Green Engine, Education & Innovation, Environment and World Show Stage. Each world has its own decor, programme and activities and gives each visitor an opportunity to see, feel and experience nature in a totally different way.
Thus, Relax & Heal world puts visitors in balance with nature in an Oriental setting. Green Engine is dedicated to sustainability and allows visitors to discover horticulture as a major economic engine. Education & Innovation is designed to help guests to understand the importance of continuous learning and innovations. Environment is focused on the importance of bringing green into the city, both indoors and outdoors. World Show Stage is a place where visitors can get to know other cultures and enjoy an international programme of entertainment
Every day at Floriade offers an exciting programme of music, dance, theatre and graphic art. Visitors can enjoy a daily spectacular show, Floriade Harvest Show, performed by young musicians, acrobats and dancers from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Check the calendar for various special events, such as Floriade Kids Week, Weekends of Taste, Wine Weeks and an astonishing Floriade Fashion Show!