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  • Writer's pictureSofias Country Gardens

My favourite garden in Amsterdam

Box lined beds

I love to visit botanical gardens when I travel, and actually it is a hobby of mine to collect botanical gardens from all over the world. Well, of course I can't take them with me, but I can take pictures that will inspire me for years to come in my gardening endeavours. One of my all time favourite botanical gardens lies in Amsterdam, and I always go there no matter what time of the year I happen to be visiting. Last year, just before Christmas, I went to see my godfathers who live in Amsterdam, and of course we spent a rainy morning there enjoying it just as much as if it had been a sunny summers day. The interesting thing with visiting gardens in winter is that as they are reduced to their bare bones you really get to know them intimately. I bit like seeing a person naked, I think.

The front of Hortus Botanicus

Hortus Botanicus lies tucked away behind a small pale green house, between a wall and a canal, right in the city center of Amsterdam. It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, founded in 1638 by the city to serve as a herb garden for doctors and apothecaries. Always a vibrant garden, it still today contains more than 6000 indigenous and tropical trees and plants and has an active role in plant preservation internationally. In 1987 it almost went bankrupt when the University of Amsterdam stopped paying for it, but a community of individual supporters managed to raise funds to save it. Nowadays it is also supported by the Amsterdam City Council and received a large donation from the lottery fund too, so its immediate future seems saved.

A curved path leads to the greenhouse

Although it is not very big compared to some botanical gardens, it is well planned and beautifully laid out. In winter especially, the structure is paramount and this is what inspires me when I get home. Of course, a walled garden like this has many more formal elements like lined paths and box hedging around the semicircular and molecular systematic beds (top picture) which I in my wild garden can never replicate - the climate being too cold for box hedging to survive for one - but structural focal points such as the insect hotel below are always possible to imitate.

Insect housing is used as a statue in the bed

Then there are some plants that I can only dream about. I admit to hardly any negative traits, but one thing I do suffer from is plant- and garden envy. There are so many plants that will not survive in Finland over winter due to the cold weather (we regularly have -10 C for weeks!) so when I see all the things that grow in middle European gardens I do feel slightly envious. You must admit that the giant rhubarb Gunnera Tinctoria below is magnificent!

Giant rhubarb Gunnera Tinctoria

Another feature I love when visiting botanical gardens in wintertime is the greenhouses.

Who would not need to have one of these beauties?!

The palm house

In the picture is the pride and joy of Hortus Botanicus: the Eastern Cape Giant Cycad (Encephalartos altensteinii) that happens to be the single oldest surviving potted plant in the world! It was brought over from Africa over 300 years ago, and its seeds are distributed to botanic gardens all over the world for species conservation.

A pond in te greenhouse

There is also a wonderful (separate) greenhouse that houses tropical plants, where if you are lucky you can see butterflies visiting or Victoria lilies in the pond. During dark and rainy days, this is the place to go to for some warmth and greenery and as a remainder that seasons change and soon enough summer will be upon us again.

Fuchsia Brinco de princesa still flowering

And last but not least, it has a great little gift shop where you can shop yourself happy with a good conscious as all the proceeds goes to the upkeep of the garden. At least, that is what my godfather Frans and I did! (I don't think one can ever own too many gardening books...)

Godfather Frans and I

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