Garden Writers
Amsterdam Belgium 2006
July, 2006

Monday July 3rd, the first day of the tour we walked from the hotel to de Hortus Botanicus and were met by Andri van Proosdij - the man responsible for selecting plants – he spoke about the history of the gardens and highlights to look out for and walked around with us in case we needed to know anything. Then we will be free to wander the gardens on our own and then enjoy a cup of coffee before leaving. The Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world. Today, there are more than 6,000 plants growing in the garden and greenhouses. The Hortus is located in the Plantage district on the edge of the hectic center of Amsterdam. Behind the 300-year old gates, however, the bustle of the city seems to disappear. Originally, the Hortus was a medicinal herb garden, founded in 1638 by the Amsterdam City Council. At that time, herbs were of vital importance as the basis of medicines and the city had just experienced a plague epidemic. Doctors and pharmacists trained in the preparation of prescriptions at the Hortus. Thanks to the ships of the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC), the Hortus expanded quickly in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The VOC ships brought not only herbs and spices, but also exotic ornamental plants. In fact, a few of the Hortus' 'crown jewels' date from that time, e.g. the 300-year-old Eastern Cape giant cycad. The Hortus houses more than 4,000 different species of plants, which is about 2% of all plant species growing on Earth. The plants grow in the Hortus as they occur in nature. Frequently, they are cultivated from seeds that were collected in the field and, thus, definitely belong to the pure natural form of the species. By cultivating and propagating these plants, the Hortus contributes to the conservation of the species and acts as a gene bank. Note these: A Victoria flowered for the first time in Europe in 1849. This was on the English estate Chatsworth. The Amsterdam Hortus was the first garden in The Netherlands to get a Victoria to flower - in 1859. Since then, Victoria's have always had a prominent position in the Amsterdam Hortus. In the past, the Victoria's were always grown in one of the Hortus' greenhouses. As part of an experiment in the summer of 2002, however, a Victoria amazonica was brought to flower in an outdoor pond. In 2003, the experiment was repeated, but this time with V. cruziana (which is less sensitive). In 2005, once again, V. cruziana grows in the outdoor pond. They have a Wollemi Pine on display as well, so you haven’t seen one yet; you are in for a treat!

After coffee we left around 11:30 and walked to the Flower Market to enjoy the wonderful displays of flowers then people dispersed to do their own thing until we met back at the hotel for our 3 p.m. pickup to De Vroomen Holland. As we approached in our coach to their head office, what was in the giant perennial bed blew us away…it was our Canadian Flag. What a wonderful sight and Guus apologized for not realizing we had American guests with us. We visited their test gardens containing one of the largest collections of perennials in Holland, their test field, had a short presentation, then drove to Keukenhof Castle. On the way we passed some of their production fields. At Keukenhof they are working on a garden showing several century garden trends. Last spring they planted an English garden from the 20th century and the 16th century garden was planted last fall. We also saw several buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries and enjoyed a wonderful meal in a small English style farmers house (1840) in the middle of the gardens. We ended this evening with a guided tour through Keukenhof Castle – our hosts and us, it was a wonderful treat.







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