There is so much growing along the streets of Amsterdam, it's hard to decide where to begin and whether to sort it alphabetically or seasonally.
Taking it seasonally, and starting with spring, you'll get:
This is not exactly chronological, it's just a general overview starting with spring.
The cherry is more of a municipal tree than a pavement garden plant but seems to fit into this section because of its blossom. Hard to pinpoint exactly when it’s at its best but there are some areas where cherries are riotous. Check out the ‘spring walks’ and that'll guide you to the Josef Israelskade walk or the Vondelpark walk which go through cherry areas. What strikes me is the variety of cherries growing in Amsterdam but we would need a cherry connoisseur to elaborate on this.
Magnolia blossoms in early spring but the exact period depends on the weather. You actually see the best magnolias in private front gardens outside Amsterdam. In the city there are some fab ones in city parks and squares. Rembrandtplein has two; they are really big and beautiful. You can see lots of magnolia in Westerpark too and in the Weteringplantsoen diagonally opposite the Rijksmuseum. The Botanical Garden (Hortus Botanicus) has a fantastic magnolia section.
Until recently I never noticed Forsythia in Amsterdam; either it is a new arrival or I was just blind to its charms. In recent years, it's a delight in early spring; a little goes a long way. Not that I'd prefer less of it, but one small bush can light up a big area. It's a wonderful spring shrub, yellow and sunny. You'll see it in many a pavement garden when you're walking around in spring.
Some pavement gardens are so small that you wonder how they can accommodate a big lilac in spring and yet have ravishing roses in the summer. Praise to the pavement gardeners again for excellent planning as well as spatial optimization skills. You'll find lilacs in little squares and greens as well as in pavement gardens.
Although you’ll see some fantastic ones during an Amsterdam spring/summer walk, clematis is not as prolific as wisteria or roses. So when you do encounter it, you may greet it with more respect than you would ‘at home’ where it is probably more commonplace.
Before long we’ll be calling Amsterdam ‘Wisteria City’. There are already hundreds of wisterias but more are being planted all the time. They thrive here in the sandy soil, hugging the warm brick walls as they shoot up the facades. Although you can enjoy wisteria all over the city, we do have one specific Wisteria Walk in the ‘spring’ section, have a look if you’re a wisteria groupie and if you happen to be here in spring.
Golden rain is what the Dutch call it. I suspect that laburnum needs just that bit more room to ‘stand’ than a wisteria which ‘climbs’. So you’ll encounter fewer laburnums than wisteria and they are more to be found in miniscule ‘front gardens’ than in pavement gardens. Some public squares and gardens do have great specimens: the ‘Hoftuin’ for example. The ‘Hoftuin’ is an exquisite semi-enclosed garden behind the Hermitage museum.
Ceanothus is a rare pavement garden dweller, there are however, some stunning specimens. Ceanothus is a ‘devil’ to take a photo of. So while it is this amazing blue in reality, it may look like a shadowy mass on photos (on mine anyway). There’s a great Ceanothus on the Weesperzijde by the way.
Lavender too is settling in to the available nooks and does really well. Amsterdam has quite warm spring and summer temperatures, so lavender does a treat. It looks great when there are plump cushions of it at the foot of buildings or banks of it in public areas. The scent on a hot day is very ‘south of France-ish’.
People like me have a soft spot for honeysuckle or woodbine. Nostalgic recollections of moist rural lanes clad in sweet-smelling honeysuckle and the way it scents the air as you pass by on a warm evening. Well I’ve got news for you: honeysuckle (Lonicera) loves Amsterdam too and prospers along streets and canals and even on balconies. It combines beautifully with roses as the pavement garden on our homepage photo will testify.
A few photos of hollyhocks should suffice. Their colours and power stop everyone in their tracks. In the summer section we’ve written a lot about hollyhocks, so you can read more about them there. They grow everywhere in the city but especially where life is bit more laid back and less swept. They start in June and continue into August but they’re usually at their best in June or July.
This is another newcomer (to my knowledge); in any case the density of hydrangea plants is increasing. You’ll see them billowing out of shady spots on north-facing streets and canals. They seem to like a bit of shade and they brighten up shady stretches with their vivid blues and pinks. Climbing hydrangea does very well too. However, it's mostly the common types of hydrangea that flourish, so don’t be expecting too many unusual and rare varieties.
Lovely buddleja, the butterfly bush abounds now too in the byways of Amsterdam. It’s taking off and it really enhances the latter part of the summer when many other flowers are waning. It’s at its best in July and you’ll come across it in the little streets around (east of) the Nieuwmarkt but you’ll see it on the Amstel and in the Kerkstraat and lots of other streets too.
It’s the Tuscan jasmine AKA Italian jasmine that is grown here. Tuscan jasmine has a lovely fragrance; it is sweet but not sickly sweet. The foliage is darkish and it is evergreen. You’ll recognise this jasmine by its small (10 cent piece) sized flowers, which have five petals in a star shape. These are climbers and can be quite magnificent when established and covered in thousands of these tiny white flowers. It’s a very rewarding plant as it keeps on producing lots of these flowers; all it needs is a good shake or a poke to ‘lose’ the dead blooms. Interesting snippet here is the word ‘scent’ which must derive from the Latin word ‘sentire’ to ‘feel’ (or to hear or to smell). Nice to muse about ‘feeling’ a fragrance when you’re sitting down somewhere, ‘scentimental’ ha ha.
They need neither explanations nor descriptions. They grow from late July on and if the wind isn’t too strong and they manage to stay upright, they look fantastic.
Most of what we focus on is colour but the lovely leafy vines are as valued and loved as the rest. They grow like wallpaper, literally covering a wall from the ground up. Towards the end of the summer they get heavy with bunches of maturing grapes. Blackbirds devour the ripe grapes and often end op blotto! I’ve heard them ‘crooning’ in an elm after they’ve eaten their fill. There’s a great vine (grapevine ha) growing on the corner of the Nieuwe Prinsengracht and Onbekendegracht, just behind Carré Theatre. Lots more vines all over town including the Amstel, Weteringstraat and other central places.
You can even see pears growing and apple trees covered in rosy apples. There are also berries and redcurrants, and of course lots of herbs like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I’d waiting for the day I’ll see a wee row of Kerr’s Pinks somewhere or a few cabbages.
I'm saving the best for last but the roses in Amsterdam have to be seen to be believed. No matter how much we worship wisteria, cherry blossom, hollyhocks or jasmine, roses have so much variety and endurance and they really add colour to city living. I have witnessed the most unlikely tourists being converted as they walk by, stopping, then taking photos.
Roses blossom from (mid) May through August or September, depending on the species and the weather. They come in all shapes and sizes and they just look so good against the Amsterdam facades. The colours defy description - you’ll see white ones, yellow ones, pink and peachy, bright red ones in a thousand shades of red. They frame doors and windows , climb steps and they ascend to balconies or they just ‘hang out’ above a nice garden seat. When you walk by, you’ll get the lovely warm, rosy scent.
Once again, it is the joy of having all of this right in the heart of the city. Amsterdam is residential right into the centre; this means that residents grow roses in their pavement and sidewalk gardens in downtown Amsterdam. Imagine sniffing New Dawn as you walk along Oxford Street.