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Educational Trip to the Netherlands and Belgium 2019

Photograph taken on the rooftop of Paleis Het Loo

In April of this year the staff and students from Teagasc, College of Amenity Horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens and Kildalton  traveled to the Netherlands and Belgium to visit some of the best horticultural destinations Europe has to offer. The tour began with a visit to Royal Flora Holland, the flower auctions in Aalsmeer. From the elevated walkway which spans the length of the giant warehouse,  we witnessed the hustle and bustle of what is the worlds largest flower auction in action.  Thirty million plants are sold on a daily basis, exporting mainly to Germany, the United Kingdom, and France. The logistics of how a warehouse the size of 220 football fields runs and operates is a thing to behold and left each one of us impressed with the magnitude of the operation. From Aalsmeer we traveled south to Belgium to visit a rare and special tree nursery.  Solitair tree nursery specialises in the production of trees with diverse shapes and sizes. Here we received a  passionate and very insightful tour by Valarie Cools, the daughter of Dirk Cools, who originally founded the company that he now operates with Valarie and his other daughter Emma. Solitair was a visit which really captured the student's imagination, a very unique tree nursery who’s plant material ends up in large landscape projects all over Europe including Ireland.

Photograph of Valarie Cools speaking to the staff and students from the Teagasc in the Botanic Gardens about  Solitair Tree Nursery.

On the second day of our trip, we began with a visit to Batowue nursery, a very different operation to that of  Solitair. Batouwe was established by brothers  Willem and Henk Huibers in 2005  and specialise in the production of P9 grafts. We visited their Dodeswaard site consisting of 5 hectares of cutting comprising of mainly common and unusual tree and shrub varieties. Willem explained to us some of the new techniques they employ in the nursery, such as the Air Pot U system that allows plants to generate a fibrous root system quickly that secures better establishment upon plantation in the fields. Batouwe produces over four million plants a year, of which two million are P9’s and exports to over 25 countries worldwide.  Our next visit was the royal gardens of Paleis Het Loo, a Dutch garden with impressive fountains and symmetrical parterres in the Apeldoorn region. A guided tour of the magnificent gardens and palace was given to us by one of the conservationists at the Paleis. Our tour guide Emma explained to us how thousands of meters of boxwood hedging in the formal gardens had to be replaced in recent years following infected with box blight.

On the final morning of our trip, we visited the Hortus Botanicus and Bloomenmarket in Amsterdam. Finally,  no trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to the world-famous tulip fields, to witness the blanket of colour that dominates the landscape for the month of April each year.  

 See Video of our Educational Tour here