by Derek Burch

Floriade 2002

A once-every-ten-years (more or less) extravaganza that lingers in the memory, until NEXT YEAR is almost upon us.

I was lucky enough, last August, to be invited by Plant Publicity Holland to preview the preparations for Floriade 2002 as their guest. Not a flower for the show in sight, of course, but amazing amounts of ground shaping and tree planting and building raising. And, what goes without saying for anything in the Netherlands, preparation for miles around the actual site to make sure that visitors can reach the entrance smoothly by road or rail, park (if they came by car) and get down to the serious business of enjoying what is on offer with the minimum of hassle.

The site is almost due west of Schiphol, the International airport for most of The Netherlands, and thus a little south of due west of Amsterdam. It is within easy reach of the seaside town of Zandvoort and the delightful old town of Haarlem. This area is in the district of Haarlemmermeer, which celebrates in 2002 the 150th anniversary of being drained.

The northernmost section of the three making up the site (named Vijfhuizen after the village next to the entrance) has a long narrow valley with a central lake. A huge glass canopy the size of four football pitches spans about half the valley, and will be the home for 35-40 changing displays that need shelter from the weather, plus some international entries including tropical plants. There is a trade centre here for industry business and a press centre.

The remainder of the valley has more exhibits of vegetables, fruit and ornamental plants, and a "glasshouse of the future," featuring the latest technology and demonstrations of environmentally-aware, low-energy, labor-saving production methods.

Site plan: the three section north to south are
Vijfhuizen, Meerbos and Haalemmermeerse Bos

The skeleton of the gigantic canopy that will house exhibits needing shelter

The central section, Meerbos, takes its inspiration from the Dutch polder landscape.

Four of the ten large square islands will be the locations for 'The Green City' with demonstrations of garden designs and cityscapes as might be found in the year 2010. The designers have been posed a number of questions: What sort of houses will we live in ? Will the children be able to play safely in the streets again? Will all the shops have become "virtual" - homes for little more than catalogue kiosks with keyboards? These demonstrations are their vision of what we might expect.

The other islands will house national entries and display gardens, and the whole is dominated by Big Spotters Hill, a gigantic sand-based pyramid rising to a height of 130 feet, from whose summit there will be magnificent views over the park and the surrounding countryside.


Above: Big Spotters Hill in the making, and the view over the islands

The third, southernmost, section is a development of Haarlemmermeerse Bos - a recreational area built more than twenty years ago around a flooded sandpit.The heavily wooded area is laced with winding trails around and over a sculpted landscape, whose plantings have been supplemented with shrubs and trees as well as more than a million flower bulbs. One end of the lake has been separated from the main area with enormous flat-topped rocks, brought in from Belgium, to create a garden for waterlilies.

Left: The rocks dividing the lake. Above: A pathway through what will be the lily garden

National entries and exhibition gardens are appropriately placed through the park, including Asian national entries (from China, the Philippines and Japan), forming an exotic "island kingdom" that will sprawl half in and half out of the water.

So much was still left to the imagination on the rather cool wet day that we visited the park last August, but the level of enthusiasm, and the magnificent framework already in place left me in no doubt that from mid-April to mid-October next year this will be a show to visit, and a visit to remember. Count on bustling activity, breathtaking color and the chance for the horticultural education of a lifetime. I hope to be there.

Visit the website at for more information. The actual dates for the show are April 6 to October 20, 2002.

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