There's nothing like a trip to the Netherlands, particularly in springtime, to shake and wake up the Canadian gardener. All that colour and blossom—everywhere! You'd expect to see window boxes brimming with hyacinths, crocuses and daffodils. But you might be surprised by the extent of the Dutch love affair with everything that blooms.
As Canadian photographer Anne Gordon discovered, there is something growing in every available pot and plot throughout the land. In the countryside, a house is not a home without a garden, and no small town is without its public garden. In the city, people lucky enough to have gardens take great pride in them; those without make do with pots and window boxes and vases (cut tulips are often sold in bunches of 50). Flowers line the canals, and even houseboat moorings have tiny gardens.
Such a passionate pursuit of gardening makes absolute sense in a country where the earth is so precious. The Netherlands is largely man-made, its lands reclaimed from the sea over many centuries. And though it's not large, it is Western Europe's most densely populated country. Happily, the Dutch have the perfect climate in which to work their horticultural magic: moderate and maritime, with mild winters and cool summers. The days are changeable—a Delftware sky can give way to grey drizzle in the blink of an eye (as the Dutch saying goes, If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute). The Canadian gardener—apt, as in all things, to be somewhat reserved—can't help but loosen up after witnessing the delicious delirium of the Dutch.
If you've got it, flaunt it may well be the motto of the Dutch gardener. Gardens are meant to be shared, and those blessed with houses are apt to favour the front yard over the back for their best efforts. Though Canadians do the opposite, front gardens are coming into their own in this country, especially in big cities—a welcome development.