"" Writer's Wanderings: Keukenhof Gardens! Ah, The Tulips!

Monday, May 01, 2023

Keukenhof Gardens! Ah, The Tulips!

Finally it was the big day. Tulip day! Our excursion to the Keukenhof Gardens started with a bus ride that lasted about 45 minutes from our dock in Amsterdam. The best part was the sun was shining!! After all the cloudy cold and sometimes rainy days it promised to be perfect.

Approaching the gardens, our driver took us down a road that had fields and fields and more fields of tulips in bloom. There were a few rows of hyacinths thrown in here and there and a spattering of daffodils but the most of what we saw was tulips. 

Our guide said we had arrived at a good time. The weather that had been so cold had kept the tulip blooms from being spent too quickly. When the blooms begin to get too far along, the farmers cut the flowers off so that they don't continue to drain the bulbs of food, helping to keep the bulbs fresh for blooming the next year. So now I was glad we'd had the cold weather because this was a great reward.

The word tulip comes from the Persian word "tulipan" which means turban because the shape of the bloom is like a turban. The Sultan gave some tulip bulbs to the Austrian ambassador who passed them on to the Dutchman Carolus Clusius who planted the first tulip bubs in Holland in 1593.

Since 1594, the Dutch have been seeking new colors and varieties. They have fifteen different groups with thousands of different varieties. There was a display on how they cross pollinate the tulips but then it takes quite a few years before the tulip is actually perfected. I guess it has to go through several regenerations.

Breathtaking from the moment you step through the entrance of the Keukenhof. Words fail me to describe the profusion of color and design. Reds, yellows, whites, purples, mixed, variegated, fringed, double petaled, And oh, the wonderful perfumed smell of a huge planting of hyacinths. 

Each year the garden has 40 gardeners that do the planting in late October, November and December. Over seven million bulbs are planted each year. A group of 20 gardeners take care of the flowers throughout the rest of the year. Each year the garden is only open for eight weeks. There are enough plantings that bloom consecutively to keep the garden fresh that long. When we were there some small sections were already cut back and others were still just budding.

The whole place is like an indoor/outdoor garden show without all the commercialism of the home and garden shows back home. There are still booths where you can purchase some art or plants or bulbs of course (we were advised to order through a grower online to get them at the right time for planting) but the small commercial spots did not overpower the main attraction, the tulips.

Several spots along the many paths allow for an overlook to the fields of tulips that border the gardens and there is a canal ride that will take you past the fields but I wondered how much you could really see from ground level.

A beautiful windmill, it's wings operating, allows visitors to climb its steps to an overlook as well for great pictures of the tulip fields. The line was quite long and we passed.

There is plenty of opportunity for snacks and lunch items. I think there are five or six pavilions that offer food, restrooms and often more indoor flower displays. We ended up with hamburgers and fries for lunch. The burgers were garnished not only with tomato and lettuce but cucumber slices and pickles as well.

One of the pavilions was huge. It sat in the middle section and reminded me of a convention center. This was more like one of our flower shows at home where florists and landscapers design floral displays with a theme in mind. There was also a center that was dedicated to orchids of all sorts.

Every time we thought we had seen the whole thing, we found another area to explore. In the middle, a bit off the beaten path, is a creek that goes over rock waterfalls and there are planted rock gardens all through that area. There were also many blooming trees so laden with pink or white blooms that their branches arched and almost kissed the tulips below.

After about three hours my legs were getting rubbery so we found chances to sit a bit more here and there. The gardens were quite busy. While they are always full of tourists and locals visiting, it was King's Day and a day off work for many so we saw lots of families enjoying the beautiful sunny and somewhat warm day.

Five hours after we had set out, we were meeting our tour group to return to the River Empress. We all looked a little worn but so satisfied with the experience of our day. I have more pictures than I can count of our day. Every time I thought I was done snapping shots, there would be another opportunity I couldn't resist. I'll let you peruse some of the rest so keep scrolling down.

Some were so large they looked like peony blooms.

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