This weekend I visited Amsterdam for the 'Open Garden Days', an annual event, when many private homes and institutions open their gardens to the public.
The theme this year was sculpture, fitting, as many of the canal house gardens traditionally contained classical statues and ornament.
A common figure to be found was Mercury, the god of trade and commerce. Here he leaps above a swathe of Geranium phaeum.
Other gardens contained contemporary pieces.
These peacocks looked very stately strutting across the lawn of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
I thought that these business men with their briefcases were fun.
Each garden also contained a beautiful and unique flower display, arranged by local florists, reflecting the seventeenth century tradition of floral paintings. These often provided a welcome splash of colour and excitement in what were otherwise, in the main, very formal green spaces.
Two gardens stood out for me as most worthy of a visit. Firstly the rather bonkers, Alice in Wonderland garden at the Andaz Hotel. The hotel and garden were designed by renowned industrial designer, Marcel Wanders and are both fun and flamboyant spaces to visit. The lofty atrium with amazing chandeliers gives you a taste of what is to come.
A massive mural, adorning a neighbouring building, towers above the garden.
Down below the garden is maze of interlocking spaces peppered with objects and statues linked to the Alice story.
The second of my favourites was the Amnesty International Garden which was a leafy oasis of calm. It includes groups of two beautiful tree species, Cercidiphyllum japonicum and Koelreuteria paniculata underplanted with a restrained palate of herbaceous plants and shrubs. The main area of planting is kept in a wide ark around the boundaries allowing for an open, sunny area in the center. Seating areas are situated in small secluded clearings amongst the plants.
Several Museums and Galleries had gardens included in the tour and as the garden ticket is valid over three days there is opportunity to visit exhibitions at some of these as you go round. We saw two very good photography exhibitions at both the Huis Marseille Museum of Photography and Foam Photography Museum. While having a delicious lunch at the Foam Cafe I spotted these shaggy hanging baskets which I thought fitted very well with the contemporary interior.
On the whole I had a very enjoyable weekend in Amsterdam. The city is beautiful and vibrant with something interesting to look at around every corner. The open gardens were an enjoyable way to explore the canal area and a fascinating glimpse of life behind the facades of Amsterdams' canalside buildings. The gardens themselves were often understated and rather formal affairs which did tend to feel rather similar after a while. However with home made food and drink on offer at many of them, displays of historical photographs of the gardens, art installations and sculpture, there was always something to make each one a unique experience.