Gardening Green with Doug
Amsterdam’s Decennial Floriade Expo Focuses on Growing Green Cities
By Doug Oster
June 2, 2022
It’s not clear at first if the singing birds are a recording or real on Utopia Island, part of the Floriade Expo 2022 in Amsterdam. The air is filled with the songbird’s calls, some familiar and others a mystery. It becomes apparent though while I move closer and the songs get louder, that these are the real deal as the birds can be heard enjoying the swampy areas along the shore of Weerwater Lake.
Floriade’s 148 acres of exhibits are a convergence of environmentalism, art and gardening. The event is only held once a decade, this year’s theme is “Growing Green Cities.” I took a group from Pittsburgh to the expo last week, and the massive exhibition didn’t disappoint.
It was inspiring in so many ways, seeing an event like this that focuses on sustainability, brings hope for the future. I’ve chronicled some of the highlights here, but the entire expo was amazing.
Utopia Island includes lots of art by Will Beckers, who creates fascinating sculptures using willow as one of the mediums. One work is a wishing horn pointed towards the lake. Children (and adults) are encouraged to shout their wishes for nature, out across the water.
Two other women walked up to the horn as I yelled, “I wish for happiness,” and as I did, they cheered. Then one said into the horn, “and peace.” The other woman used the horn to add, “and love.” What’s cool about the artwork is that whatever you say into it, echoes back. (Watch a short video of the horn here).
Another piece of his work mimics the underground world of worms, visitors walk through and underground tunnel to appreciate the perspective of a worm.
Agroforestry is highlighted on the island too. It’s an example of biodiversity, combining row crops with trees, shrubs and meadows for farmland and demonstrates the possibilities of a new way to grow. Onions were planted in the shadow of nut trees next to shrubs planted for livestock to feed on.
There are over 400 international participants, showcasing the latest green innovations. The expo opened in April and runs through October 9. After the expo ends, a green city district called Hortus will be built. The bridges, arboretum and many of the buildings will remain.
The expansive display areas include the Green Island, Urban District, Hortus Avenue, Eco District and more. It takes at least a day to explore and two would be better.
There were large shipping containers converted to offices, lots of other sustainable building ideas, gardens galore, ideas to help pollinators and much more.
One of the most incredible sculptures is “Beehold” by Florentijn Hofman. It’s two giant waving figures covered in 10,000 bees made of Corten steel. They tower over the Central Square. Hofman is the artist who created the giant rubber duck which appeared in Pittsburgh back in 2013 and tours the world.
The Treeport Zundert exhibit honors artist Vincent Van Gogh, who was born in the region. The area incorporates innovative sustainable building, a unique heat storage plan, ways to save on water use and has a display that was inspired by the artist’s most famous works.
The art throughout the entire expo is a way to connect people to sustainability. It lures them in and then includes a message of how a city, landscape or home can be greener. That’s what the Wolune exhibit does, which is stunning. It’s a sort of natural stained glass made up of hundreds of jars filled with colorful liquid, showing how the sun can be used as an energy source to dye wool.
A huge green wall on the Aeres building, called the Green Lung is part of Aeres University of Applied Sciences is covered with colorful plants. The new campus will be a knowledge and innovation center revolving around urban food supply. It’s filled with perennials and other flowers, showing how beauty and functionality can coexist.
Fruitful City explores the spiritual side of sustainability with a small, energy-efficient chapel and 12 sculptures from different artists. Each one, individually interprets love, patience, kindness, faith, fidelity, self-control, sympathy, hope and goodness.
For patience, sculptor Roelienke van der Snoek created a young girl, laying on her stomach, carefully watching a snail crawl across a rock.
At every turn there is something wonderful to experience; floating forests, children’s environmental education, international pavilions, all interwoven with innovation, beauty, art and gardens.
It’s almost impossible to capture what a day at Floriade is like, only to say that like myself, many others spent their time with an unrelenting smile while traversing the exhibits.
Sustainability is on the rise, and the Floriade Expo 2022 is just another sign of the times.
Doug’s 19th Annual Plant Swap and Garden Hullabaloo happens Sunday June 5, 2022, 11 a.m. to 12 noon at Soergel Orchards located in Wexford.
It’s a place for gardeners to trade with each other. Bring divisions from your garden to swap, be sure plants are labelled and please don’t bring anything invasive.
Doug will also have lots of ‘Limbaugh Legacy Potato Top’ tomato plants to pass out while supplies last. He’ll also give away ‘3945’ tomato plants. It’s a variety originally found near a battlefield during WWII. One plant of each per family please.
Be there at 11 a.m. as it’s crazy when we begin.
There’s more information here about the event and the tomatoes.
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