Monday, June 11, 2012

Rocking on the Rhein

Today it’s cold and wet as we wend our way up the Rhein, castle spotting. Hillsides are lush green – forest and vertical vineyards.  We started on the sundeck – bravely crouching under umbrellas, but once the temp hit the v low teens and our bodies were drenched and shaking with cold we repaired to the back lounge – over the engine.  We saw the castles a few years ago when travelling from Budapest to Amsterdam – in sunlight - so there isn’t the  same imperative to find and photograph.

Botancially / garden-wise it’s been an interesting mix so far.  The impetus of the trip was Floriade at Venlo (The Netherlands).  The concept is brilliant – every 10 years a region is selected to be the beneficiary of Floriade.  It takes five years to establish the site and major infrastructure is left to the town/region after the event. The idea is to bring industry and income to the area and leave legacy sites and buildings. Nice idea – but Amsterdam has won the gig three times in the past 60 years (ie in six Floriades), where’s the sense in that?

The site is huge (66 hectares) but is manageable if you have a chauffeur-driven scooter.  That would have been fun – but we managed on foot.  In six hours we saw probably one third to one half of the exhibition.  Floriades also tend to include international trade missions promoting tourism and business – always presented in a horticultural manner.  So those areas we skipped.

The best advice received was to see Floriade as an experience – don’t try to compare it with Chelsea Flower Show or Melbourne International Flower Show.  Cos if you did you’d be disappointed.

If you are into plagiarising ( sorry – gathering ideas for your own implementation) then visits to places like Piet Oudolf’s garden and Kristin Lammerting’s Englische Garten Koeln are the places to hang out.

Oudolf’s wife Anja played the tour guide – Piet having returned from somewhere o/s the day before.  They’ve closed the nursery, to give them a better chance to work and travel together without the pressure of maintaining the nursery.  Anja says Piet hates the adulation he has garnered and just wants to spend his time “painting with plants”.  The garden doesn’t look much like the Gardens Illustrated glamour photos, but that might be because the beds were in between flowering – although the concentration is on grasses and greenery rather than flowers.

Kristin Lammerting’s English Garden in Cologne is to die for.  Lots of lovely ideas garnered but it was hard always to go beyond the fact that a vast vast amount of money went into creating and maintaining it.  Kristin’s advice was if you want a garden start it when you first marry (in her case 18 years ago) – then it is a joint venture.

Money?  Two full time gardeners. A koi carp pond 4m deep, 40,000 litres of water, warmed water in winter. An acre of garden with soil 1m deep – because the beds are sited over the massive underground garage and “indoor” swimming pool.  Lime linden and other trees bought as mature trees.  Human sized sculptures commissioned in Greece.  Patterned paths made of stone bought from China and laid by a skilled artisan from Eastern Europe. If you hang out  here you can see the koi carp whizzing around their pond - they are immense, one weighing about 30kg.

And a timely reminder that (a) gardens could and should be made over regularly – in her case because winter snow wipes out the annuals and (b) maybe kitchen garden beds – eg mine – should have plants that don’t grow quite as high so that you can overlook them rather than they overlook you.

Plants to find on return – allium globemaster, crambe cordifolia and berberis – there’s a variety which grows upright like a wee pencil pine.

Towns – walked through Koblenz late at night and travelled the cable car to the fortress and back. Thanks to the soccer for some reason the flights were half price – not to be sneezed at.

Pics to come - at the moment it seems like too much hard work sorting through them!

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