41 students from across the horticulture department have just returned from a study tour of Holland and Belgium, visiting a host of gardens and nurseries. Each group was armed with a team Mr Potato Head to support them with tweeting about their adventures in Holland, accompanied by lecturers Craig Bailey and Carol Adams.
‘May the Forth be with you’ (4th May) saw us travelling across France and Belgium to our destination in Noordwijk aan Zee, a coastal resort near Amsterdam. To keep us entertained on route we set Star Wars themed quizzes and a costume challenge for each group (much to many people’s relief the costume challenge was…for their Mr Potato heads!)
Our first visit, having travelled through the bulb fields of Lisse was 4 hours in the international tourist attraction Keukenhof, boasting with 32 hectares including over 70 million bulbs, over 300 varieties of tulips, orchid exhibitions, plant exhibitions and show gardens.
Many of the group sheltered in an exhibition hall during our first downpour of the tour and exuberantly joined in the singing and dancing with the dutch band Kleintje Pils who played at the Sochi Olympics!
Then we set off to visit the Thijsse’s Hof, a 2 hectare garden home to the native plants of Kennemerland in natural vegetation groups, a pioneer of the naturalistic conservation style of planting.
The following day was an early start (6.30am in Holland) taking a trip to the Aalsmeer Flower Auction (Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer), the largest commercial building in the world selling approximately 20 million flowers each day.
We travelled along an aerial walkway looking down on the bustle (and near misses) of the warehouses and looked into the auction and testing rooms. We then travelled on to the Nursery Museum in Aalsmeer and were guided through their working exhibitions on rose breeding, Lilac and Viburnum cut flower production, Fruit, Conifer and perennial production systems as well as having a go at bidding on one of the retired auction hose price clocks.
The group’s next stop was Amsterdam. Many of us toured the city by canal boat and took a trip to the Floating Flower Market to stock up on unusual seeds and bulbs.
Thursday we travelled through the orchard region in Holland to the 26 hectares of De Idee Tuinen (Idea Gardens) in Appleturn, home to over 260 display gardens including conceptual gardens, traditional gardens, water gardens, conservation and green engineering displays and natural play provision.
Our final day we visited the Nursery town of Boskoop, calling in at Esveld Nurseries, who are specialists in unusual trees, shrubs and perennials. Good job we all brought small suitcases… customs in Calais guessed which country we had been on tour to… as soon as they opened the boot of the bus and were met by a cascade of plants tumbling out!
On our return trip we called into the University of Gent’s Botanical Garden for a stretch of legs and a final top-up of horticultural novelty. The outdoor microclimate and massive glasshouses housed many rare and unusual plant species and we enjoyed looking at their extensive collection of tropical flytraps and exotic food crops, as well as playing with the Sensitive plants (their foliage snaps shut when you brush the leaf with your finger as a defensive mechanism against predators).
We arrived back in the UK on Saturday morning at 3.30am and proceeded to ram plants and cases into waiting parents cars…what a great study tour!
Course Manager and Lecturer, Horticulture Department