People keep asking me when I’m going to see some tulips, but honestly, I’ve been busy with palm trees.
While in Amsterdam’s Plantage district, my sister and I visited the Hortus Botanicus, a botanical garden* since 1638. Its history began as a medicinal herb garden, and many of its first residents were seeds brought back from the voyages of the Dutch East India Company in the 1600s. Hence, there are many plants growing in Amsterdam today that are not at all native to the Netherlands.
The 4,000 species of plants (the website tells me this is 2% of Earth’s total) are showcased both outdoors and in five greenhouses. The space isn’t exactly huge, but it’s dense with greenery and something new was catching my attention every time I blinked. We are right on the cusp of spring and things are beginning to truly wake up from the winter.
The greenhouse above was the special “Three-Climate” greenhouse. We monitored the climate change by commenting on the increased frizziness of each other’s hair as we moved through the humid rooms. Outside it was a pleasant spring day, but by stage three of this greenhouse we were ready for bikinis and iced beverages, and perhaps a dip in the pool with the ornamental koi. The Three-Climate greenhouse and the Palm House featured metal catwalks we could climb (at first I wasn’t sure you were supposed to, but it was definitely allowed) to walk through the tops of the trees. My sister braved these despite a fear of heights!
The amazing thing about Hortus was how completely we lost the feeling of being in a city. Not that there was anything wrong with feeling like we were in urban Amsterdam, but even outdoors, the garden makes you forget where you are. There were reminders, however—views like this:
Our last stop was the Butterfly House (Vlinderkas), a smaller greenhouse where we discovered that there is not a lot cute about a butterfly the size of a pigeon flying at your head. The Hortus Botanicus is E7.50 for adults, and a lovely respite from a day in the city. They also have an organic cafe on the premises.
And my favorite part? They have at heart the best interest of their resident bees.
*While typing the phrase “botanical garden,” I began to wonder if it was redundant. You know: “a garden of plants.” Feeling conflicted, I looked it up on Merriam Webster and got the OK: