Keukenhof Garden, The Netherlands

The Keukenhof Garden was one of the highlights of our trip to The Netherlands. I mentioned it in the Vrijdag Vijf Friday Five, but I thought it was worth its own post.

Around the gardens, between the cities of Haarlem and Leiden, are 19 miles of bulb fields (the Bloembollenstreek). This is the main growing region in the world, providing 45 million bulbs every day from March through May.

Rainbows of color brighten up even the dreariest of mornings.

Tulips originally hail from Turkey, but have had a long tradition in The Netherlands, dating back to 1593.  The first bulb nurseries in the region like this one were established in 1789. By then tulips had already become the country’s most cultivated flower.

Wish you could smell the heady fragrance.

The Dutch were so smitten with tulips that in the early 1600s demand couldn’t meet supply and prices skyrocketed. By 1636, tulips were being traded on the stock exchange, leading to speculation. People spent exorbitant sums of money to buy bulbs and “flip” them to the next person for an even higher price. (Sound familiar?) There were so many variables in whether the bulbs would be worth their weight in gold and sometimes the bulbs just didn’t produce what had been purported. Suddenly people interested in buying tulips disappeared and some folks were left holding very expensive bags of bulbs. Panic ensued as people tried to unload their bulbs for any amount in the hopes of recouping some of their losses, causing prices to sink even lower.

The Keukenhof Garden opened in 1949 as a showcase for Dutch growers and now has more than 7 million bulbs. It’s only open from March through May when the blooms are at their best. The showcase is still part of the spectacle in one of the three pavilions on the grounds.

We expected the park to be crowded, but I was a bit nervous as bus after bus of tourists unloaded. Once we made our way past the main gate, the people fanned out over the 80 acres of the park, and it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as it first appeared.

Each of the 7 million bulbs in the park are planted by hand in precise designs and arrangements. There are 100 varieties of tulips in the park! I had no idea there were that many colors and shapes. Anyone know the name of this pointy guy?

Or this furry one?

By now the garden has all of the growing patterns down to a science, but sometimes Mother Nature has her own idea. Most of the flowers had bloomed but there were are few beds that hadn’t come up yet.

There is always one overachiever in the crowd.

You might think that after hours of walking around sculpted paths and flower beds, it would be boring or at least redundant, but it really wasn’t. Each display was unique with different color and variety combinations. This one was one of my favorites.

We timed our visit to coincide with the annual flower parade, which is similar to the Rose Bowl Parade here in the US. Almost two dozed floats pass the main street in front of the garden decked out stem to stern in bulbs.

Have you ever been  to a botanic garden? When and where? What was your favorite display? 

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31 comments

  1. To tell you the truth not only could I name those tulips but had you not told me they were tulips I’d have never guessed they were even related!
    We are lucky to have a wonderful botanical garden here in STL… I think my favorite part is the ‘Japanese Garden’ although I’d be surprised if there’s a bad spot in the whole place!
    🙂

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    1. We have a Japanese Garden in the botanic garden near my house. I really enjoy that area also. They have koi in the pond! 🙂

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    1. That is the perfect description of how they smell! For the life of me I couldn’t think of an apt comparison. They do smell just like candy. 🙂

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  2. Wonderful post. I’ve missed everything, didn’t know you’ve already went and are back again. I love tulips so much. I try to buy some every other week and pick different colors, varieties. They had some crazy looking ones the other day, spiky, like the pink ones on your photo but they were green.
    So lucky you went at this time of the year.

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    1. I agree, Caroline. It was so fortunate that we got to see the tulips in bloom, and those gardens are only open two months each year so we had to plan ahead.
      Having fresh flowers around your house really brightens everything, don’t they?

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  3. Oh my, such lovely flowers! The facts you give are as interesting as the photos, Jackie. The tulip speculating is so much like what goes on in the US today with real estate. And the sheer numbers of bulbs, and the planting it must take. Whew!

    Like you, I don’t think I would find any of the beds boring. It must be a visual feast of color and design. The closest place I’ve ever experienced are the Buchart Gardens in Canada. It’s 50 acres of all kinds of flowers, and stunningly beautiful. I thnk it would be such fun to work in one of these amazing gardens.

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    1. I would love to work in one of these gardens. Can you imagine being surrounded by such elegance and beauty all day long? Though I think my lack of a green thumb would put me out of the running for the job. 🙂

      I wonder how many people the garden employs to be able to plant and maintain that many bulbs. This ain’t your backyard garden for sure!

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    1. It was a wonderful opportunity to get out of the city for a bit. I knew that the garden would be a highlight of the trip, but I really had no idea it would be that spectacular. Every where we turned there was a new and exciting display.

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  4. I am completely blown away by the beauty of those tulips. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in person. Thanks so much for this FASCINATING post. Loved also the history you shared. Now this post should be Freshly Pressed!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

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    1. Just a hop, skip and a jump for you. They’re open for a few more weeks this year. you could bring Miles! I saw so many dogs and they looked like they were having a great time. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Julia! I know my photos really don’t do it justice though. It was quite a sight to be surrounded by so many tulips.

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  5. Gorgeous pics, Jackie!
    In Naples, Florida there is a beautiful little zoo that started out as a botanical garden. It’s filled to the brim with stunning tropical plants. It’s the perfect place to entertain the kids while you enjoy the gardens.
    My other favorite is the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. I haven’t been there in years, but would love to go back. It’s a pretty special place.

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    1. The Japanese Tea Garden sounds lovely. A friend of mine had mentioned going there some time ago. It must be a very peaceful and inviting place. I’ll have to put that on my list if I get to SF.

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