• Canal Gardens of Amsterdam

    2nd July 2011Places to VisitStephanie Donaldson

    They may not be the real thing, but I loved these tulips in Amsterdam

    Hollyhocks grow outside many of the 17th century merchant's houses on the canals

    One of Amsterdam's Hidden Gardens - traditionally these formal gardens had shell rather than gravel paths

    Many of the Canal gardens have stylish summerhouses at the end of the garden

    Another rather smart summerhouse

    A very grand summerhouse at the end of one of the gardens

    A raft of plants floating alongside a canalboat

    Last weekend I visited the annual opening of the private gardens behind some of the 17th century Merchant Houses that line the Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Kaisergracht canals in central Amsterdam.  It’s predominantly a local event, so it’s a great opportunity to mingle with the locals and see what goes on behind the houses.  ‘Passports’ are on sale at the gardens and you follow a map and get your passport marked each time you enter a different garden.  I went with my friend Jo and we walked ourselves to a standstill – and had a brilliant time.  We agreed that it is a really good way to get to know the city. We wandered ‘off piste’ if something caught our attention, like the Gouda with cumin (yumm), a great vintage clothes shop called Laura Dols and a fabulous bed shop Coco Mat where the supremely comfortable all-natural beds are made from an amazing assortment of materials including seaweed and cactus!  The Conscious Hotel where we stayed ticked all the boxes too – an eco hotel which was simple but stylish and very comfortable.  With a tram stop right outside the door, we could be in the centre in 10 minutes, but away from the noise at night. For more information about Amsterdam visit

    In the garden of the Handbag Museum(!) this bronze sculpture of a bag rested against a bench

    I like the colour and texture of this grass and Geranium Ann Folkard

    An 'espresso wagon' was parked in one of the larger gardens

    Immaculate hostas were very envy-inducing

    I'm not sure what this sinister arrangement was supposed to be, but it was in the garden of the Bible Museum

    I would happily find space in my own garden for these sculptures

    It is always a treat to see good sculpture well displayed in a garden - unfortunately this is all too rare