ALMERE, THE NETHERLANDS — A garden city on the banks of a fresh water lake. Innovative buildings made of elephant grass. Edible plants filling city parks. Usually I visit a destination before I write about it. Not this time. Where I wanted to go doesn’t exist. Not yet.
There’s a lot of talk about turning cities green, but what does that look like?
For six months in 2022 (April 14 - Oct.9), the 60-hectare International Horticultural Exhibition Floriade Expo 2022 will celebrate how people and nature can work together to make cities healthy and sustainable.
Built on the water’s edge in Almere in the province of Flevoland, Floriade Expo will have so many exhibits and attractions, you can spend several days touring them.
Where to stay is easy. Amsterdam is under an hour by car or train. Or, stay close to the action in Almere’s hotels, campsites, marinas and B&Bs.
After you’ve enjoyed Floriade, stay longer to explore Flevoland’s expansive nature reserves and 2,000 hectares of brilliantly colourful flower fields.
Above: The Floriade Expo will feature a giant greenhouse and modern pods will take visitors to various pavilions.
Floriade Expo 2022
With Floriade still under construction, Annemarie Gerards, who leads the communications team, described what I will see and do when I visit.
For a bird’s-eye-view, I’ll ride high above the Expo in a glass-enclosed cable car. I’ll sit under the brilliant Dutch sky to attend concerts, ride a scale-model train, see performances in the children’s theatre and taste urban agriculture by picking edible plants in the food forest.
By opening day, 2,300 trees, 90,000 shrubs, 180,000 perennials and countless numbers of flower bulbs will have been planted to produce a “green solution.” All the plants were selected to improve air quality and rainwater drainage, create natural air conditioning and attract birds and insects to pollinate and fight disease.
A healthy city also needs beauty. If I want to tip-toe-through-the-tulips, I’ll come in spring. But Floriade will always be filled with colourful flowers in bloom because flowers in the park will be planted according to their season.
Since I’m redoing my home garden, I’m especially keen to watch horticulturists demonstrate a sustainable mix of flowering plants, perennials, shrubs and vegetables. I’ll visit the Green House Complex to see innovations in Dutch horticulture and eat at the Green House Restaurant where I will enjoy a meal made with vegetables grown in the park.
Floriade will present ways we can make our lives better. Exhibits will show how agricultural biodiversity protects the quality of our food and soil fertility. How cities can have “clean water, clean air and clean soil” when they embrace non-polluting energy solutions. What we build also makes a difference. Organic materials like elephant grass and cotton can be used as construction materials. Pedestrian bridges can be made out of recycled waste.
Annemarie spoke proudly about the Green City Arboretum, the anchor for the Floriade park. Designed by Winy Maas and executed by landscape architect Niek Roozen, the outdoor arboretum is an A-Z “library of trees, shrubs and plants.”
According to Maas, when I’m at Floriade, I’ll experience a city of the future, “where nature, landscape architecture and architecture meet.”
Even though Floriade Expo 2022 will end, the Arboretum will live on and flourish as a city park for Hortus, Almere’s newest city district.
Above: The Floriade Expo's Green City is being built around lakes where many bird species will soon call home.
Flevoland is Dutch-modern
When I visit Floriade, Annemarie tells me I should also explore Flevoland because the province embodies the themes of the Expo.
A hundred years ago what is now The Netherlands’ newest province was at the bottom of the Zuiderzee (the southern sea). Imagine a land mass half the size of Prince Edward Island emerging from the ocean.
For centuries, when the Dutch needed more land, they traded up. Massive dams created below-sea level “polders.” The process was simple. Dam. Drain. Reclaim. Repeat.
With a bounty of new land, planners sought to create a balanced mix of nature and human habitation. Towns, farms, pastures, theme parks, roads, rivers, marinas, lakes and nature reserves were all built on the land that was reclaimed from the sea.
Architects constructed boldly colourful buildings in cities like Almere. Ecologists created the expansive Oostvaardersplassen and Lepelaarplassen nature reserves with wetlands beloved by birds and bird-watchers.
Kilometres of walking and cycling trails were built next to dykes, across meadowlands and through new-growth forests. Beaches were created on the banks of lakes and rivers that are enjoyed for swimming, canoeing, sailing and windsurfing.
In addition to all those attractions, I definitely want to visit the flower farms in Noordoostpolder (northeast polder). In spring and summer, 2,000 hectares of tulips, lilies, gladioli and grape hyacinths burst into bloom and flood the landscape with bright colours as far as the eye can see.
Above: The Floriade Expo is expected to draw many international visitors and they'll be impressed with Holland's tulip fields.
When to visit
I’m looking forward to attending Floriade. The only question is, when? There are so many excellent choices. If I visit during spring tulip season, I can combine my trip to Floriade Expo with a tour of Flevoland’s flower farms.
During summer, the Arboretum will be at its most luxurious. If I visit in early fall, the leaves will be changing colour as the gardens prepare for winter’s chill.
JUST THE FACTS
• Floriade Expo 2022 runs from April 14 - Oct. 9, 2022.
• The Expo is open daily 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
• Visit the official website for details: https://floriade.com/en/ and directions: https://floriade.com/en/address-and-route/
• For information about The Netherlands, go to: https://www.holland.com/global/tourism.htm
• For Almere: https://www.visitalmere.com/en
• For Flevoland: https://www.visitflevoland.nl/en