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.
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.
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.
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?