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Too Pretty to Be Real

August 15, 2010

The Netherlands are awesome. Not just because of Castlefest.
It’s also both really, really pretty, and the country where a lot of our plants come from – mostly flower bulbs and houseplants.

I’d known that, of course. I’d known it from school, and from work, where we got pallets of flower bulbs and trucks full of houseplants, but I find I don’t really know until I’ve seen it. And when I see it, I get ridiculously excited.

So imagine the bouncing and squeaking when I saw this field across from our campsite:

I think the yellow in the back was Calla/Zantedeschia, but I'm not sure. There definitely were fields of those close by. And look how flat it is! Crazy! But what I was excited about was the field in front.

Doesn’t look very interesting? But, but, but – look closer!

Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) bulbs!

Even knowing they grow them there, it’s so odd to just see them lying around there like, I don’t know, potatoes or turnips or some other stuff that’s ordinarily grown in fields.

It’s a shame I didn’t get pictures of the Calla/Zantedeschia fields – they were awesome! – but we didn’t drive past any when I was frantically snapping pictures out of the car window on the way to the beach the last day.

Hosta field

Daylily (Hemerocallis) field, and greenhouses

Greenhouses! Greenhouses everywhere! All over the fields, greenhouses!

What amazed me was that almost all of them were actual glass houses – here in Austria, plastic greenhouses are much more common. I shudder to think what would happen if there were a bad hailstorm!

They also have movable greenhouses, something that we were told about at school, along with, ‘but hardly anybody uses them any more.’ So when I first saw one, I was actually bouncing in my seat, pointing and shouting, ‘a movable  greenhouse! A moveable greenhouse! I can see the rails!’ My travel companions must have thought me even more crazy than usual.

Not a very good picture, but you can just make out the rails along the sides of the planted area. I expect the part of the greenhouse wall below the pipe can be folded up when the greenhouse is moved to cover those plants that need protection, or away from those that need to be hardened off. The thing in the back is a dune, I think, not an actual hill. There just aren't any hills.

Speaking of dunes… the beach is a big part of the Netherlands’ awesomeness too. To be fair, I have to say I’ve been to nicer beaches, but a beach is a beach, and the sea is the sea, and to a girl from a landlocked little country, that’ll always be something magical.

The Netherlands also have the advantage of having beaches without the heat of, for example, Italy (our usual holiday destination). Heat is evil.

It’s odd – many holiday destinations on the Mediterranean aren’t any closer than the Netherlands, and yet, ‘going to the sea’ automatically means ‘going south to the Mediterranean’, and we almost forget there’s sea to the north, too. So it’s another moment of, ‘wow, it’s real – there really is a sea here!’

They have dunes, and bicycles. Lots of bicycles.

And I’ve got lots and lots of blurry pictures of the dunes taken from the window of a moving car.

We did a bit of the touristy ‘oh, look, a (whatever)!’ thing, randomly wandering around Leiden and Haarlem, snapping pictures of random things (and occasionally, random plants).

Oh look, a houseboat! *click* (I pretty much only knew those from comic books. I know a lot of stuff from comic books. Another, 'wow, these things really exist!' moment.)

Oh look, a windmill! *click*

Oh look, a movable bridge! *click* (another thing I mostly knew from comic books.)

Oh look, a Fatsia japonica! *click*

I know that winters are warmer in the Netherlands, and I know why, but still… to be 1000 km NORTH from home, and see things growing outside that aren’t hardy here is just so weird!

Oh look, an Ivy shrub! *click*

I first discovered the shrubby form of Hedera helix (Common Ivy) in the Netherlands, during my first visit, but I haven’t seen it since – not until this trip, on which I saw several, and pointed them out to my companions. I’d told them about ivy shrubs, but I don’t think they believed me before they saw them.

Oh look, an old ship! *click*

Oh look, weeping willows! *click*

Oh look, a thatched roof! *click* (I took this picture from the car window again, and those bloody trees got in the way. Damned shutter lag!)

What absolutely killed me, though, were the little alleys we discovered in Haarlem. I stumbled around with a dazed look on my face, muttering, ‘This isn’t real. This is a postcard. Somebody get me out of this postcard, I’m dying because this is so kitschy!’ in between self-mocking squeaks of, ‘daft tourist – click!

I've always loved Firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea), but I've never seen it grown this way - I bet it looks awesome covered in flowers or berries!

Rosmary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - it looks like people just pull up a few pavestones and plant something in front of their houses. And again, it's something that's not hardy where I live.

Passionflower (Passiflora, probably P. caerulea - also not hardy in my country) and Wisteria

(I know, I know, usually it’s Liza at Good to Grow who does the sunflower heads, but since I’m not showing the faces of anyone I know  here…)

Fig tree (Ficus carica) - yet another plant not hardy in Austria. Upon seeing this picture, one of my friends immediately declared she had to move to the Netherlands so she can have a fig tree.

Hydrangea macrophylla - they're all rather short people, but still... here, hydrangeas get about knee-high. And this wasn't even one of the prettiest.

And just looking down these alleys:

I’ve never ever seen anything like this in Austria, and I don’t think I ever will. Planting stuff in front of your house, in a town street? Just not done, even if it were allowed.

Or putting a bench out onto the alley – just unthinkable here. Even if you weren’t immediately told to move it back inside, because putting your stuff out on the street/pavement is not allowed, who’d want to sit out there?  Well, the Dutch do, apparently. But they allegedly also don’t have curtains (and I did see notably few.)

I don’t know whether I’d actually feel comfortable, sitting there in the broad view of all passers-by (including silly Austrian tourists), but it sure looks sweet.

And it adds to the overall prettiness of the country, which makes me go around muttering, ‘no, this can’t be a real place!’

I mean, even the ground is kitschy!

But even if it’s not real, looking at those pictures makes me want to go back!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 06:06

    That’s it. I’m moving. Great pictures!

    • August 17, 2010 17:55

      That’s what everyone says… and I’m actually beginning to consider to go there for a year, or more if I like it.

  2. August 18, 2010 20:58

    I want a movable greenhouse. I didn’t even know such a thing existed!

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