My hostess puts on a pair of old wooden clogs and then goes out into her garden. “They’re so hot,” he says as if talking about a favorite pair of slippers. “Wood is a great insulator, perfect for gardening.” Where else could it be in Holland?
Its plot is paved circles of old and worn brick, bordered by well-trimmed box hedges, personifying the pleasant Dutch obsession with netjes (neatness). In formal beds, allium and delphinium stand out in perfect straight lines.
A favorite of Dutch gardeners, the Paulownia tomentosa (foxglove tree) blooms at the end of the garden; its blue-violet flowers look stunning against the 17th-century brick wall.
Dam fine: Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, the most popular urban park in the Netherlands
Souvenir wooden tulips for sale in Amsterdam
Do you plant tulips for spring? I make the mistake of asking. Those naughty stragglers? So messy! I don’t like them, ‘comes the surprising answer.
This garden is one of 30 that were to be included in Amsterdam. Open Tuinen Dagen (open garden days) earlier this year. Unfortunately, it was canceled, but there is high hope that it will be operational again next June.
From the street, you would never guess that the gardens are there, hidden behind the large houses on the impressive Keizersgracht and Herengracht canals.
All proceeds from ticket sales in normal years go towards restoring historic gardens in other parts of the city.
One of them is Hortus Botanicus, a walled garden founded as Hortus Medicus in 1638 to supply medicinal herbs to doctors. Here you can take a fragrant walk through the Snippendaal Garden, named after the 17th-century botanist who first cataloged the 796 species of plants grown here.
The huge circular greenhouse, dating back to 1911, is home to a 350-year-old Encephalartos altensteinii – a giant palm-shaped cycad. The most popular urban park in the Netherlands and the “green lung” of Amsterdam is the 120-acre Vondelpark.
Overflowing with runners, skaters, dog walkers and hikers on the weekends, putting into practice what the Dutch term uitwaaien, replacing bad air (indoor) with good air (outdoor) and enjoying the positive impact of nature.
The walled garden of Hortus Botanicus, pictured above, was founded in 1638 to supply medicinal herbs to physicians.
I got a tip from a local guide, Bart de Zwart, that if I want to see the Dutch passion for horticulture in action, I just need to get on a bike from Vondelpark and pedal for ten minutes to Sloterdijkermeer, a plot of 274 plots. gardens. Here, peultjes (peas) hang from the frames and herb gardens thrive.
It’s a nice place, dotted with benches and chairs in cozy circles, where gardeners sit erase (a well-deserved drink, often jenever), and a friendly casual hoi is regularly shouted my way as I explore.
To the south of the city, Amsterdamse Bos, which began as a post-war job creation scheme, is a large park planted on 2,500 acres reclaimed from the sea. As the terrain is wonderfully flat, the most beautiful way to explore is by bike on trails that take you through woods, meadows, bridges, and lakeside trails.
Amsterdamse Bos, above, is a vast park planted on land reclaimed from the sea
Kate Wickers enjoys the views of Lake Nieuwe Meer (pictured above) while eating pancakes
To see Lake Nieuwe Meer, I stop pannenkoeken (pancakes) on the terrace of Paviljoen Aquarius. Below, kayakers glide, disappearing into canals lined by tall reeds and sending gray herons flying. Back in town, on Scheepstimmermanstraat (Shipwright’s Street) at the docks, I have a severe case of house envy.
In the 1990s, the city council unleashed residents to build their dream waterfront homes with rooftop gardens.
None are open to the public, so I manage with the elastic neck, glimpsing the tall green oases that crown these modern 17th-century canal houses.
According to Kate, the floating flower market in Amsterdam (pictured above) is considered by some to be ‘too touristy’
Horticultural snobs may turn their noses up at Amsterdam’s floating flower market on the Vijzelstraat (too touristy, they cry), but since it’s been there since 1862, it deserves respect. Packs of up to 40 tulips cost just five dollars and you can stock up on quality bulbs to plant at home.
In a city where even the humblest of curbside flower stalls sell the finest flowers, it’s hard to single out a single florist, but Pompon on Prinsengracht, which draws its inspiration from the garden and natural floral design, gets my vote. .
Looking at the luxurious bouquet of creamy pink peonies that I bought there as a gift for a friend, I think of the words of the painter Paul Gauguin when he first saw Van Gogh’s sunflowers.
Simple pleasures, like a walk in the park or a visit to a garden, are now more appreciated than ever and his words seem poignant.
‘That is all . . . the flower, ‘he said. Lots of those in Amsterdam. . .