“If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Alie’s sister wanted to see Dutch tulips in the spring, so we booked a tour on the Internet. I expected to see fields of flowers. Driving to the Keukenhof Gardens past brilliant fields with band after band of color was worth the trip. The gardens, however, were more spectacular than I could have dreamed.
Tulips originated in the mountains between Tibet and China. Turks loved them; they derive their English name from “tulipan,” the Turkish word for turban because someone thought they looked like a turban.
The Dutch have been growing and perfecting tulips for 400 years. They became so popular, they became a source of investment. At the time of a famous bubble, one tulip bulb was worth the price of a modern sports car; like all bubbles, it burst.
Keukenhof, outside Amsterdam, means “kitchen gardens.” It literally started as a kitchen garden for a 15th century castle, Teylingen. In 1641, Keukenhof Castle was built on the site, and the estate grew to about 500 acres. The castle gardens were redesigned in 1857 in the English landscape style with meandering pathways and streams, large trees and ponds with fountains.
In 1949, a group of 20 flower bulb exporters decided to use the estate to show off their wares. Opened as a park in 1950, it was an immediate success. It is only open two months a year while the blooms are at their best and in those two months, the park averages more than 800,000 visitors.
In 2015, one hundred participating companies showed off seven million hand-planted bulbs. In addition to these beds, there are also indoor flower shows in which 500 flower-growers presented cut flowers and potted plants.
We were not aware of the extent of the gardens before we visited. We expected formal beds of solid colors. Instead, we found wonderfully designed abstract shapes filled with unexpected color combinations and different varieties of flowers at different heights. The grass around the flower beds was maintained like a golf green. Huge old trees were just beginning to leaf. There is an old windmill. There are animals and birds and a playground for children.
Before we left, we were each given a free bag of flower bulbs which we saved for an avid gardener friend in London. We hoped she would have some small bit of the pleasure we found at the gardens.
Click on a photo to enlarge.