Almere in the Netherlands is the home of the International Horticultural Exhibition. A fair of ideas for garden and climate protection lovers – and the one below sea level.
Almere – the gondola floats high – below is a colorful flower garden, crisscrossed by canals and paths. Tulips and daffodils are small splashes of color in the green idyll. The enchanted islands seem to float on the water.
Almere’s skyline stands proudly across the lake. The Dutch city east of Amsterdam is the site of the international horticultural exhibition Floriade Expo 2022.
The last piece of the puzzle
In glorious spring weather, King William Alexander opened the Expo on Wednesday – symbolically he planted the last piece of the puzzle in a living site map. The organizers were able to breathe a sigh of relief. During the preparation phase, the Expo had been plagued by organizational and above all financial problems.
The Floriade takes place in the Netherlands every ten years, always in a different location. This year’s theme is: “Growing green cities”. How can they become more livable, greener and more sustainable in the face of climate change?
There is no better place for this than Almere. Because the youngest city in the country is also a symbol of the Dutch struggle against water. Almere was built about 50 years ago on a polder, a land reclaimed by water. The Zuiderzee once lay here, a southern protuberance of the North Sea. It was drained at the beginning of the 20th century.
“We are five meters below sea level here,” says Paul Meekel, a city guide from Almere. But hardly anyone is worried about the impending flood due to climate change. “No, we’re used to it, we live with water,” says the 62-year-old. And finally there are canals, pumps, mills. “They make sure we keep our feet dry.”
Be prepared for climate change
The Netherlands needs more pumps and dams. Green and climate resistant cities are necessary for the survival of the country. About 60 percent of the area is threatened by floods and severe thunderstorms. Almere is already planned as a green city, but now it is also preparing for climate change with extra measures. This too can be seen at the Floriade site on the shores of Lake Weerwater, just opposite the town. Here the “Hortus” – garden district will be born.
“We are building a new city,” says Niek Roozen, the landscape architect of the Expo. And it will be sustainable. With catchment basins for rainwater, for example, and wide pavements through which water can drain quickly. The university building has a lively green facade – natural air conditioning. “The entire infrastructure will also be maintained for the residential area,” says the architect.
The base of the Floriade is the arboretum, a sort of library of plants. The entire 60-hectare site was divided into squares and planted in alphabetical order according to the botanical names of the trees and shrubs: 2,600 trees, 80,000 shrubs, one million bulbs. All trees and plants come from local breeders and each has a special advantage: they improve air quality, lower the temperature, contribute to biodiversity or provide birds with building material for their nests.
ideas for climate protection
Young designers have created their own ideal gardens, including selfie spots for visitors. Trees in old buoys float on the water – an artificial forest. In the middle is a mini church that rotates with the sun and thus collects its energy optimally.
Hundreds of exhibitors are showing horticultural drones, balcony climate protection ideas and exciting new materials. For example, airplane seats made from pepper stalks or a house built from plastic waste.
But the Expo is also a journey through the gardens of the world. About 30 countries have set up their own pavilion. Qatar, for example, is demonstrating how deserts can be made green. Host country The Netherlands shows how to build in a sustainable and climate-friendly way with organic products. China cultivates a bamboo garden. The Italian pavilion offers a Mediterranean atmosphere.
The German garden “Biotopia” attracts attention. The pavilion is made with wooden cubes and will change over the course of the exhibition. Because the facades were also planted. Fruit and vegetables grow on the roof. Insect-friendly plants proliferate in the yard and a colony of bees lives there.
The name Biotopia says it all, says Tetyana Osevych, project manager. The biotope can be designed by visitors, large and small, in a utopia. They can wander the pavilion and garden with a smart bracelet and build their ideal city. “A fairytale utopia”, says Osevych.