(Writer’s Note: With so many bloggers writing about the tulips and other floral displays, it was inspiration enough to pen down my experiences of the visit to this absolutely magnificent Keukenhof gardens, albeit it was a few years ago.)
A holiday in the beautiful country of Netherlands should ideally be undertaken in the month of April or May. This is because, it is tulip season in the country and what better place to enjoy these flowers than in the beautiful garden of Keukenhof. This garden with thousands of tulips, lilies, daffodils and other flowers are an absolute must see. The verdant and scenic surrounding surely is a sight for sore eyes. It is true that no camera can capture the actual beauty of this place and one needs to go to the garden to see and experience the beauty of nature’s bounty.
Before fixing your itinerary, make sure you are in the Netherlands during the period spanning end of March to mid May. This is when that the Keukenhof Gardens are open and the flowers are in full bloom. The tulips, in particular, are the biggest attractions here. During this season the tulips are in bloom and are at their radiant best. As you drive down to Keukenhof from Amsterdam, you pass by the most amazing commercial tulip fields en route.
Keukenhof is located in a place called Harlem, southwest of Amsterdam. Each year in the month of April there is a Flower Parade, which is referred to as Bloemencorso. The parade usually has floats and cars which are decorated with flowers and it is a treat for visitors who line up along the roadside of the 40 km route of the parade. Every year the parade begins at a place called Noordwijk in the morning, passes through Lisse in the afternoon and ends in Haarlem. This year it was the 75th time that the Flower Parade was held.
Spread over 70 acres of land, Keukenhof is the world’s largest flower garden. It reportedly has 7 million and more flower bulbs. Established in 1949, the garden was the brain child of W J H Lambooy, who was the mayor of the quaint town of Lisse. Along with other local people, it was decided that an annual open-air flower exhibition would promote the cause of floriculturists in the region. The exhibition would give an opportunity for the local growers of bulbs to exhibit their varieties and also sell them. It was decided that the Keukenhof Estate, which was used as an herb and vegetable garden, would be the ideal place for this venture. Keukenhof derives its name because of this reason, as it means ‘kitchen garden’.
Today, the garden is full of trees, water bodies with ducks and swans merrily swimming in the waters and walking paths which are flanked by flower beds on each side. The park also has seven types of model gardens which can inspire you to try something similar when you return home. Bronze sculptures by Dutch artistes also dot the park adding to the beauty of the landscape. There is the ubiquitous old fashioned wind-mill too in the garden and you can climb on to it to enjoy a panoramic view of the area around Keukenhof. If you have gone there at the right time, then you can see the kilometres of tulip farms which look like strips of colourful carpets.
There are several exhibitions of flowers which are so aesthetically arranged – you have to see to believe it. To the delight of my children, one exhibit even looked like a cake. Other than tulips, there are daffodils, azaleas, hydrangeas, lovely orchids, hyacinths, and narcissi which add to the beauty and colour of the gardens.
One exhibit area also had a singer singing ‘Hava Nagila’, the popular Hebrew Song which means ‘Let us Rejoice”. Rejoice we did, as we joined the rest of the tourists in singing the song. There are kiosks where you can order the bulbs grown by local farmers. These are delivered to your postal address around September when the bulbs go into hibernation. A guide at the garden tells us that nearly three billion tulip bulbs are produced in Holland. Dutch growers propagate newer varieties.
The history of tulips: Along with the windmill, wooden shoes, tulips are synonymous with Netherlands. So, I was quite surprised when I was told that tulips were not indigenous to Holland but were brought to the country from Turkey. It also got its name from the Persian word ‘toliban’ which means turban, because the flower resembles one. The history of introducing tulips in Holland goes something like this. Carolus Clusius, a botanist working in Vienna happened to meet A. G. Busbequius, the Austria Ambassador of the Ottoman Empire who gave him the tulip bulbs from a garden in Constantinople. Clusius brought these bulbs back to Holland and started propagating them. It was a stroke of good luck that these flowers have adapted to the ‘below sea level’ environment of Holland, while the natural habitat of tulips is typically rocky and dry mountainous regions. Today tulips contribute substantially to this nation’s economy.
There is so much to see at Keukenhof that you may need an entire day. It is also recommended that you reach early to beat the tourist crowd. If you get tired of walking then there are benches where you can sit and also have refreshments.
Getting There: If you are coming in from Amsterdam, then you can drive down to Keukenhof. You can also take a bus from the Schipol Airport, which directly brings you to the Keukenhof gardens. You can also catch a train, if that is your choice. You can also contact the Amsterdam Tourist Office which organises excursions to Keukenhof.
Cost: Entrance tickets cost €16 for adults and €8 for kids aged from 4-to-11 years while kids under 4 go free. Book your tickets in advance online on this site http://www.spoordeelwinkel.nl/product/keukenhof
Date: 13th May 2022