Cherry blossoms in Amsterdam

Cherry blossoms in Amsterdam Japanse Bloesempark

After a long winter, spring has finally arrived in Amsterdam. And it’s about bloody time! Seasonal affective disorder (SADs) got to me big time over the last six months; the return of sunshine, blue skies, flowers and budding green leaves has brought my energy back with it.

To celebrate the season, and because I really needed some cheering up the other day, I’ve been on the hunt for those most ephemeral symbols of spring—cherry blossoms. So where does one go to see cherry blossoms in Amsterdam?

Cherry blossoms in Amsterdamse Bos

My friend Giova brought me to the ultimate spot to see cherry blossoms in Amsterdam: the Japanse Bloesempark (Japanese Blossom Park) in the Amsterdamse Bos, the park bordering the cities of Amsterdam and Amstelveen.

Because these delicate blossoms are so fleeting, you must see them soon as they burst into bloom. A few days of rain and wind, which are synonymous with Amsterdam weather, can lay them to waste immediately. It helps to have a friend who lives close by to be on cherry blossom patrol.

Cherry blossoms in Amsterdamse Bos wide view

The park has 400 cherry blossom trees, which were planted by the Japanese Women’s Club as a memorial to the victims of the tsunami in 2000. Half of trees bear Japanese women’s names, while the other half are named after Dutch women.

Cherry blossoms in Amsterdam Japanese hanami picnic

The park is a favorite picnic spot of expat Japanese families who miss the traditional hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties, of their native land. It also hosts a Sakura Festival every 10th of April. For visitors of all nationalities, it’s a beautiful place to take photographs, contemplate nature, and simply enjoy the coming of spring.

Cherry blossoms in Amsterdams Kersenbloementuin photo shoot

I love a good concept photo shoot as much as anyone else, but please, please be gentle with the cherry blossoms! We saw a woman who must have been tugging on this branch for a good half hour while posing for photos. These blooms are so delicate, giving them tender loving care means they’ll last longer for everyone to enjoy.

Unless you are up for a very long bike ride, the best way to reach the Japanse Bloesempark is by car. Closer to the city center, your best bet to see cherry blossoms in Amsterdam is at the Westerpark.

Cherry blossoms in Amsterdam Westergasfabriek

The trees line the cycle path right beside my beloved kinderbadje, with some small picnic tables nearby should you want to dine under the blossoms.

Cherry blossoms in Amsterdam Westergasfabriek cycle path

This is truly one of my favorite spots in the city, and I can’t wait for summer to see it filled with happy, splashing kids, mine included!

Cherry blossoms in bloom Amsterdam Westerpark

Have you seen cherry blossoms in bloom? Tell me all your favorite secret spots. Maybe one day I’ll actually get to see them in Japan. One can dream, right?

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Spring flowers in Lago Maggiore

It was still chilly when I left Amsterdam for Lago Maggiore, so arriving to find bright sunshine, brilliant blue skies and spring in full bloom was just the best thing ever. Bursting from trees, growing out of cracks in stone walls, shouting from rooftops… it was flowers, flowers everywhere!

Lago Maggiore Orta spring trees in bloom

Lago Maggiore Orta flowers in stone wall

Lago Maggiore Orta purple wisteria

Mostly, though, Lago Maggiore in the springtime is wisteria heaven. My memories of this weekend getaway with friends will always be perfumed with the scent of wisteria.

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Amsterdam’s front door gardens

Living in Amsterdam, it helps to have a short memory. That way it only takes a day or two of warmth and sunshine to forget three weeks of drizzle and gray. When the sun is out, all is forgiven and everything is transformed. Over the weekend, I spent some much-needed time in the sun and rediscovered some of the little things I love about living in Amsterdam.

Front door gardens are one of them. Flowers are abundant and cheap in the Netherlands, but growing your own flowers is how locals get them even cheaper. Apartment living doesn’t stop Amsterdammers from gardening; thus the presence of gorgeous blooms on doorsteps, where they have the best chance of catching the sunshine they need.

StepsFlower pots Purple

It’s June and all the front door gardens are in full bloom. A walk around the Jordaan shows an abundance of bright green spilling over gates…

Green

… of colors cascading over doors, and roses tumbling down over windows.

Cascades

Where does your garden grow? Out of brick walls, crates, buckets… even old wooden shoes, apparently.

Hanging on brick walls

I have a despicably black thumb (Paisley Parsley, Alexander Coriander and Rosemary Gil all died prematurely), but my weekend walk inspired me to give gardening another try. Have you had any success growing plants at home? Any tips for a newbie apartment gardener?

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A pop of (water)color

I’m usually pretty impatient when it comes to making things. If it can’t be done in one sitting, I tend to rush it or just give up altogether. So I consider it a big achievement to have spent three consecutive Tuesdays working on a painting for my watercolor class. I finished it last week, left it to dry in my teacher’s studio in Haarlem, and finally brought it home!

This is the first painting that I’ve produced out of this class that I enjoyed doing from start to finish and am really, truly happy with. My first few lessons were a little awkward and unsure; with this work, I feel I’ve hit my stride and grown in confidence and technique.

I’ve gotten quite a few compliments from Penny on this, and it’s been great to walk into the studio on Tuesday afternoons and find my other classmates—my geriatric barkada, LOL—gathered around my work and talking enthusiastically about it.

My favorite bits are the flowers, naturally. I love how the red flowers really pop, thanks to the contrast of the dark green around it. (I think I’m getting better with contrast!) I did the pink flowers by dipping a rough natural sponge in some green paint and blotting it quickly on a wet, watered-down red wash.

Penny remarked that my style is turning out to be more illustrative than painterly—nothing wrong with that, just a matter of style. To help soften the whole painting, she suggested painting over the stark white background with a quick wash of pale green blurred with lots of water.

Voila, the finished work!

Do you like it? Tell me what you think!

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Pale October

Now that I’ve finally let go of September, it’s time to say hello to my first official fall!
Though autumn is known for its bright and fiery palette, I welcomed the start of the season with uncharacteristically muted hues. 

When I spotted this bouquet of pale, almost dusty lavender roses at the corner bloemenwinkel (flower shop), I simply couldn’t resist. I’ve never seen roses this shade before.

Flowers are one of the things I really love about living in Holland. On days that are just totally bleargh, they are a small, but very welcome reminder that here, something new, interesting and different is always—sometimes literally—just around the corner.

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