Floriade 2012 Runs from April 5 to October 7.  

Once every 10 years, the Netherlands throws itself a garden party. And it is quite a party, as you might suppose for a country that earns about 60 billion dollars a year from its international trade in flowers.

Floriade, the World Horticultural Expo, is an extravaganza celebrating all things horticultural, and this year it takes place outside Venlo, near the Netherlands’ border with Germany. Each Floriade has an overarching theme; the horticultural event at Venlo bills itself as the Theater of Nature.

“Theatrical” might be the perfect word to describe Floriade Park. Spread over 160 acres, the park is divided into five distinct themed areas, or “worlds,” each one with some fairly spectacular features, including cutting-edge architectural design.

Dozens of countries participate, ranging from Sri Lanka to Spain, and each nation will take the stage—the World Show Stage, that is—for a day, showcasing its national traditions in dance and music. But you don’t have to go to the theater at Floriade, though many shows are staged in the amphitheater; one will come to you. A pedal-powered mobile stage could stop anywhere in the park and a group will begin performing—you might hear music from Togo or Indonesia, see troupes of actors from Romania or Turkey.

Each “world” encompasses a rather abstract concept: Relax and Heal, the Green Engine, Education & Innovation, Environment and World Show Stage. Within each “world” are multiple exhibits related to its theme. For instance, in the world of Education & Innovation you could enter a pavilion that lets you experience nature from the vantage point of a honeybee. Or you could wander through Tropical Treasures, a huge greenhouse that pulls together tropical flora from such far-flung places as Kenya, Thailand and Mexico, to discover what these plants have in common and how they differ.

National pavilions showcase native flora and garden design, so the Israel pavilion takes its cue from ancient texts that mention the seven fruits and grains of the biblical land, and makes it easy for visitors to enjoy the view by providing seats made of stone collected from six key spots in Israel, including the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. The Chinese pavilion replicates one of the classical gardens in Suzhou, complete with the traditional ornate entrance gate, lotus-filled ponds, and fountains.

Walk barefoot through the Butterfly Garden, with plantings designed to attract butterflies. See what the average business park garden could be with a stroll through the Feel Good Garden, which offers 120 different species of trees set into micro environments where harassed office workers might find a breath of fresh air. A vast rose garden perfumes the air as you head for the Floriade amphitheater for a show.

The Netherlands is a small country with a big interest in sustainability. The organizers of Floriade 2012 have focused on demonstrating how to design ecologically sensitive living and working places, inspired by the cradle-to-cradle movement. As a result, everything that goes into creating the park will be reused or recycled. Nothing will go to waste. Every structure built for the event will, a year from now, be part of the “greenest” business park in Europe.

Villa Flora, designed by Dutch architect Jon Kristinsson, is the epitome of the expo’s theme. The structure is sheathed in insulated glass to reduce energy use and uses renewable energy sources (solar, geothermal and bio-fermentation) for heating and cooling. It will house floral exhibits throughout the event and then become an office building.

After the expo concludes, every single element used in it will be repurposed. You can find more information here www.floriade.com.


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