Engage all your senses and experience nature first-hand at one of the most anticipated horticultural events of all. A true spectacle, Floriade is a globally important exposition hosted in the Netherlands just once every ten years. The first Floriade was held in Rotterdam in 1960 and, half a century on, it's still going strong; in 2002, more than two million people attended from all over the world. Running from early April to mid-October, the 2012 expo promises to be a jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring display of exquisite flowers, rare plants and exotic trees – plus a wheelbarrow load of imagination, innovation and technology.
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5 Things you shouldn't miss when visiting Floriade
The Feel Good Garden
Relax and re-energize in this soothing garden, where every element has been carefully planned to work in harmony. Working on principles similar to those used in Feng Shui, the creators of this special space believe that a garden's atmosphere can be transformed by the arrangement of its plants, trees and water features. Visitors will discover healing herbs, tea rituals and a 'bare footpath'.
If you get peckish here, why not try the 'Restaurant Relax and Heal'? In keeping with the tranquil Oriental influences of the garden, the menu offers a mouth-watering selection of Thai dishes and Japanese snacks. Mint tea and fresh juices are available to wash it all down with.
This is where beautiful floral displays rub shoulders with cutting-edge green technology. The Villa Flora is also known as the 'greenest office in the Netherlands'. An impressive building in its own right, the structure rises to more than 30 metres at its highest point and resembles a stadium terrace. Looking every inch the state-of-the-art architectural wonder it is, it has substance as well as style and is packed with energy-saving features.
Even better, it's here that you'll find one of the biggest indoor flower shows on the planet. Some of the more playful and innovative displays to look out for include a candy tree hanging with 'green sweets' for younger visitors or those with a sweet tooth, and the Green Emotion Theatre, where you can see Floriade's most skilled flower arrangers working their magic. A living office is another fascinating display – see the transformation of a dull, grey office space into a green oasis of a workspace, with plants growing through the ceiling and walls. And as a lasting reminder of your visit, why not plant an iconic Dutch tulip of your own?
My Green World
Represented by a giant seed-like structure that looks as though it's about to burst and germinate, this exhibition is one of the landmark sights of Floriade Park. Inside, visitors will find a magical kind of indoor garden – where the pavilion floor is made of fertile soil and is running with water. A buzzing hub of innovation and education, you can join lectures and workshops, take part in experiments and marvel at the future of ecology.
Shopping on Floriade Laan
As you head towards the impressive Floriade Plaza that forms the heart of this enormous expo you'll pass a huge assortment of tempting stalls. This is a great opportunity to buy something locally produced – whether tasty specialities from the region of Limberg, clever gadgets or trendy gardening gear. Naturally there is also a great selection of plants and flowers on offer. Once you've shopped till you're ready to drop, have a rest on one of the benches scattered around the Plaza and let the dancing waters of the spectacular fountain here revive you.
Wilde Weelde World
Venture off the beaten track and discover a collective of skilled garden designers, tree surgeons, horticulturalists and landscape gardeners all working in harmony to create some amazing displays. Here, if you've got the ambition (and the space at home), you can learn how to approach landscaping your own garden. Other tips on creating your ideal outdoor space include ways of using water and soil responsibly – and how this can lead to more wildlife paying you a visit.
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