Incredible though it may seem, there were a few people in Amsterdam more interested in gardening than in a World Cup football match between Paraguay and Slovakia. Despite inclement weather, they flocked to this annual event.
We’ve been regulars at the Opentuinendagen (Open Garden Days), so it was good to see some new venues this time. We particularly enjoyed visiting ‘hofjes’ not normally open to the public. These are private shared gardens surrounded by housing complexes originally set up by rich burgers anxious to do good works for needy people, often single women or the elderly.
We really like the idea of communal gardens. There’s a lot to be said for knocking down the backyard fences and employing professionals to take care of the design and the weeding. We have only a couple of pot plants on our 5th floor balcony, so we envy those who have a small green patch at their doorstep, a space where they can be alone, or get to know the neighbours if they prefer.
These are all beautiful gardens, but must be said that if this is a representative sample, Amsterdam landscape design errs on the conservative side. Certainly growing a Mediterranean garden or a cactus feature would be a challenge in the Dutch climate, but the range of plants on show is limited, and there’s a sameness to many of the gardens we visited. Does every Amsterdam backyard need a box hedge and a central sundial?
At least as interesting as the gardens were the snooping opportunities, as we poked our noses over the ropes and the ‘no entry’ signs into the kitchens and living rooms of these elegant establishments. Though we common folk were normally admitted only through the servants’ entrance – a tunnel under the building, for transporting the buckets of manure, we presume.