For a place that really is really only open for about 8 weeks a year and especially if you love spring flowers, and more especially tulips, there's no place better than De Keukenhof not far from the village of Lisse, The Netherlands, southwest of Amsterdam. This remarkable park is transformed every spring into a dazzling, ever-changing display of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, lilies, amaryllis, and many other flowers. There are also flowering shrubs, ancient trees and countless natural surprises, as well as themed gardens to explore and pavilions filled with displays, and of course, a windmill. A number of sculptures and other objects d'art can be viewed on a sculpture trail among the flowers throughout the park. The park has somewhere near 10 miles of trails and walkways among its 70 acres for you to view this remarkable site of beautiful flowers and shrubs.
The history of the Keukenhof Gardens stretches all the way back to the 1400s. From 1401 to 1436 this estate belonged to the Countess of Holland, Jacoba van Beieren, with her four husbands (not all at the same time). She used part of her estate as an herb and vegetable garden. Here the countess personally
Tulips of every shape and color
This is but a small sample of the 2000 varieties of tulips found at Keukenhof.
gathered the fresh ingredients for her kitchen (when she wasn’t marrying and burying her assorted husbands). This was where vegetables and herbs were grown, hence the name Keuekenhof, which literally means “Kitchen Garden”. The park itself was designed in 1840 by the German horticultural architects J. D. Zocher in an English style, with woodland glades, meandering streams and avenues of beeches. The landscape park was acquired by the Royal Dutch Association of Bulb Growers at the initiative of the mayor of Lisse in 1949 as an attractive setting in which to stage an open-air flower exhibition, to show the wide range of flower bulbs available for sale. More than 236,000 people visited Keukenhof the year it opened. Now the number of annual visitors is around 900,000.
The word "tulip" is believed to originate from a Turkish word for turban. Tulips were first grown in Western Europe in the middle of the sixteenth century. Tulips are associated with Holland the world over, however ...it certainly does not originate there. According to one source, Counselor Herwart of Augsburg, a man famous for his collection of rare exotic plants, cultivated them. Carolus Clusius, a famous biologist, is generally credited as the man
The entrance fee(2007),13 Euros (approx. $17.50) was worth every penny.
who introduced the tulip into Holland in 1593. Stories about this special flower spread rapidly. Enchanted by its beauty, rich Dutchmen were prepared to spend vast sums of money for a tulip bulb. The tulip was hot and a sort of gold-fever developed. Of course, this came to an inevitable and bitter end. In 1637, there was a Tulip Crash and tulip mania was over. Over-supply led to lower prices and many dealers went bankrupt. But the trade in tulips has continued unabated. The tulip is now one of the Netherlands most important export products.
Keukenhof, this lovely wooded green in the heart of the commercial bulb-producing region of The Netherlands, is now considered the world's largest flower garden, with over 70 acres on which, the major Dutch growers planted approximately 7 million bulbs this past fall. (By the way, they were all planted by hand!)
The area is divided into many different plots, which the bulb growers are assigned each year by lottery. There are blocks and strips of flowering bulbs in every possible place to dazzle visitors. The blaze of color is found everywhere in the park, beside canals, streams and shady ponds, along the paths,
in neat little plots and huge drifts among the lawns. You could easily spend more than one day here, especially if you are really into flowers. Although the gardens are large and the walking is flat and easy, the paved walks and rest places along the flower paths made the gardens that much more enjoyable.
The bulb growers of Keukenhof use layered planting to ensure a continuous display of color. Bulbs are planted on top of each other, in different layers. The late-blooming tulips are placed deepest in the ground; above them early-blooming tulips; and above them crocus. This way flowers will bloom at the same spot in the park, from early in the season until late in the season. The bulbs of over 100 registered suppliers are planted from the end of September until the first frost. At the end of May, all the bulbs are pulled up, the gardens are redesigned, new bulbs are planted, and the lawns are re-sown. Unfortunately for us, this area as well as most of Europe had a fairly mild winter and a very warm spring. The result was the gardens, still beautiful, as you can see from our pictures, were just
starting to look a little sparse during our visit, the first weekend of May.
Tulips have to be the stars at Keukenhof, with a mind-boggled assortment of over 2,000 varieties in spectacular colors. But many other bulbs are included throughout the duration of the show. Early in the season there are daffodils (about 500 varieties) and crocus, hyacinths (about 100 varieties), lilies, and followed by a whole bunch of flowers I have no idea what they were. I was surprised to find a number of flowers there that are found in our garden in Ansbach which I really thought were weeds, pretty weeds but weeds none the less, and here to find out that they are different species of flowers. There are roses and a wide variety of perennials and container and terrace plants in addition to the trees and shrubs of the extensive landscape plantings. Keukenhof is probably the world’s largest garden show
This show continues indoors in various pavilions with over 500 different varieties of flowers displayed. Tulips, orchids, and many other flowers are displayed in beautiful arrangements.
Although Keukenhof is really closer to the town of Lisse, the only place we could find to
When you come late
Even though there are 7 million bulbs planted every year, and are layered planted to ensure a continuous display of color, this year the flowers bloomed early and you can see some of the flower beds now empty of flowers.
stay was in the town of Leiden, which itself is a beautiful place to visit. Leiden has two notable claims to fame first; it was the birthplace of Rembrandt and, second, remember Plymouth Rock and all those Pilgrims? It was here in Leiden that those Pilgrims found refuge during their long years they waited to sail to this new country – America. There are a lot of other neat historical facts about Leiden that I will forego for now.
Leiden also is where the oldest university in the Netherlands is located. I think, not only because of this, and maybe the cost of gasoline and throw in narrow streets and narrow bridges, Leiden has more bicycles than I can recall every seeing. Even more than Freiburg, Germany, and Freiburg had a heck of a lot of bicycles. But I must say that Freiburg cannot hold a candle to the number of bicycles in Leiden. They are everywhere.
Leiden is like a miniature version of Venice must be like. Except, unlike Venice, there are streets adjacent to the various waterways. What I found interesting about this place is that like many towns in the U.S. where teenagers and young
adults drive around and hang out in cars – here it is boats. There are even a couple barge cafes that you can pull alongside and go aboard and have a drink and a bite to eat. The only bad thing I could say about Leiden and at least the Netherlands we saw, is that it is very expensive and that is not only because the dollar is so weak against the Euro. Prices for food and entertainment was much higher than I’ve seen in Germany.
All in all this was an interesting trip. Well worth the 8-hour drive up and 6 hour back. (My GPS system took us the scenic route on the way up!)
Until our next trip! Play fair and be safe!
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