East meets west in this quaint Japanese-style garden located in the Netherland city of Gouda (yes, the same town famous for its cheese).
Normally to travel from the Netherlands to Japan, you’d have to cover a distance of more than 5,700 miles. But for Netherlander Ramon Smit, a trip to Japan is as easy as stepping out into his own backyard. While the distance is short, it took Smit over eight years to complete his journey.
The Netherlands has a long history of going cuckoo for flowers (two words: tulip & mania), so its annual Bloemencorso (Dutch for "flower parade") should come as no surprise. Except that every float is beyond belief, and even more so when one considers that the colors & patterns are all designed with flowers. Sculptures range from the surreal—twisting buildings & floating wizards—to the familiar—delftware china & Viking ships—and all are show-stopping. Bloemencorso is like Carnevale meets Macy's Day Parade, and everything is covered with flowers.
Until the early part of the twentieth century, a town in southern Netherlands provided a passage for smugglers, who ported coffee, butter, and meat from adjacent countries. Today, the historic town is famous for a new attraction: Drielandenpunt Labyrinth, Europe's largest open air shrub maze. It was designed in 1992 by British landscape artist Adrian Fisher, who built the labyrinth with 17,000 hornbeam shrubs, and perhaps a nod to the smuggler—a metaphor for navigating the intricate maze.
Grand old buildings—particularly sturdy brick ones that outlived the industries that built them—are repurposed with some regularity. But find a late-19th-century water tower sitting on nearly four acres of open land and you have the ingredients for something truly exceptional. In Dordrecht, 15 miles southwest of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, that is just what Daan van der Have and his partners, Dorine de Vos and Hans Loos, created.
Tulip mania is in full bloom in the Netherlands right now, as shown by these amazing photographs of the bulb fields in bloom. The area is known as Bloembollenstreek, or flower bulb street, a strip of 19 miles between Haarlem and Leiden, where fields of flowers are grown. The flowers start blooming in January and lillies bloom late in May, but mid-April is the time for the area's most famous flower, the tulip, to shine.
In April 2011, a visit to Piet and Anja Oudolf’s home was an unexpected opportunity for me to watch the couple lay out a new section of garden. Piet and his family have lived in an old farmhouse at Hummelo, in eastern Netherlands, since 1982, and I have been a regular guest there since 1994. As the garden has developed and changed over the years, I have observed how every alteration reflects Piet’s ongoing evolution as a designer. This particular change entailed creating a garden from a patch of land that had been a sales area for their nursery business.
During the 17th-century economic bubble known as "tulip mania," tulips were an unparalleled symbol of luxury, and they fetched a pretty (and speculative) penny. European audiences found the tulip's saturated colors to be exotic, wonderful, and worth the cost of a posh Amsterdam flat on the canal. The tulip frenzy would crash of course, but today, after a recovery period of several centuries and the introduction of new floral species to temper the tulip's allure, the flower has settled into a comfortable spot: still cherished, but a lot less expensive. Sometimes, they're even free.