Do you like to tulips? Not that bothered? Ah, but do you like colour? If colour – rich, vibrant colour and lots of it – is your thing, then Keukenhof gardens near Amsterdam should be on your bucket list.
I was lucky enough to visit Keukenhof a couple of weekends ago. I hadn’t been quite sure what to expect; I do like tulips but no more than other cut flowers. But I was bowled over! Where I had expected open fields of tulips I got a beautiful woodland setting. Instead of lines of single colour tulips I got massed tulips in all sorts of amazing colour combinations. And as an added bonus, the sky was bright blue and the temperature had been dialled up especially for our visit. Stunning!
So the reason for this blog is really to share some of my photos with you, to show you some of the colour combinations, and maybe even encourage you to visit some day.
Each year the gardens have a theme; this year it was ‘Romance in Flowers’. There was definitely a romantic spring mood during my visit, with a number of young couples visiting the gardens hand in hand – and taking numerous selfies around the Cupids Garden and the Holiday Romance Garden…. It was evident during my visit that people come from right across the globe to visit the gardens.
Keukenhof claims to be the most beautiful spring park in the world. It is certainly a wonderful setting, with the flowers set in drifts, beds and borders amongst shapely beech trees and ornamental lakes.
I particularly admired the way that in some of the displays the tulips have been mingled with other spring flowers and bulbs, each enhancing the other, and contributing to the overall wow-factor. Anemones, camassias, hyacinths and the astonishing upside-down pineapple of the imperial fritillary all made an appearance.
The park was designed in 1857 as an ornamental garden for Castle Keukenhof. The castle can’t be visited, but since 1950 people have been flocking to see the tulips. Although I was visiting on a weekday, by midmorning the car parks were full. However the gardens remained surprisingly peaceful – everyone was strolling about happily in the sunshine, or sitting enjoying a coffee and some delicious Dutch pastries.
At Keukenhof there is also the chance to find out a bit more about the history of tulips. Often described as ‘tulipmania’, in the early 17th century tulips had recently been introduced to fashionable society and quickly became a craze, with prices for bulbs reaching astronomical prices. Tulips flowers were ostentatiously displayed by wealthy families in huge pagoda-like vases, with a different flower at each corner and storey of the Delft edifice. At the peak of tulip mania, in 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled worker.
Since then the rich and varied colours of the tulip has made it one of the world’s most popular cut flowers. Breeders in Holland specialise in increasing the range of flower forms, so that as well as the classic goblet shape, which I was told is the preferred shape for the British market, there are lily-flowered tulips, double tulips, even fringed tulips, and sizes from miniature to nearly a metre tall. And there are now tulips in almost every colour except a true black (honestly, who really wants a black flower in their garden or vase?!).
Well that’s it for my feast of flowers. Keukenhof isn’t open again until next spring, when the entire garden will have been replanted and a new (and, I’m sure equally stunning) version of this flowery wonder of the world will be open to all.