Do you remember the first time you put on a floral dress and thought how beautiful it made you look and feel?
In recent years, I have become more and more fascinated by the amazing selection of flowers on show throughout the year. As soon as I see flowers, and no matter where, my first reaction is to smile, an unknown but definite happiness arising from the bottom of my heart, seeping through my veins and making me giddy with pleasure. My other inclination is to snap it on my phone, keeping that moment of beauty for longer. As we all know, no flower will stay blooming for long, and when they do, no matter how enchanting and vibrant, they can not last. Does their fleeting beauty make them more precious?
For me, flowers represent not just beauty, everlasting or temporary, they symbolise life and renewal, and often signalling the arrival of Spring, a transition from freezing winter to gradual but inevitable warmth and growth, from darkness to brighter, longer daylight. Their ever-changing colours, shapes and fragrances, purifying the air we breathe and decorating our world in a delicate, ephemeral, extraordinary beauty. They are a collection of petals, sepals, stamens and pollen. That is the science, but that conveys little of the emotions they can arouse in human beings who appreciate them.
For a number of years, I’d wanted to go to Holland/Keukenhof for its wondrous selection of tulips and other spring flowers showing. I’d known friends who had been, I had seen pictures and video clips, but naturally nothing ever beats what we can see with our own eyes and to experience them at first-hand.
2019 is my Gap Year, which means a lot of traveling and doing things that I have always wanted to do but somehow not able to in the past. So in the second week of April John and I flew from Birmingham to Amsterdam, a route we have taken numerous times on the way to somewhere else, but this time, an extended holiday in several Dutch cities, and of course, the main purpose of the trip, Keukenhof Tulip Appreciation.
It was a super clear and crisp spring day with bright blue sky, the sun shining beautifully. From our base at the city of Leiden, it was a 40 minutes’ bus ride. It was Wednesday so the internet told us that it was the least busy day of the week. That was a good start.
Do you know where tulips originated?
Tulips originated in the Tianshan mountain range in western China and they were first actively cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (current day Turkey). Carolus Clusius (French Humanist, Physician and Botanist) wrote a major book on Tulips in 1592, they became extremely popular, so popular in the Dutch Golden Age that in the mid-seventeen century, they created the first economic bubble, known as ‘Tulipomania’. Tulips became so expensive and were even used as money. You could buy a house in Amsterdam with the value of one tulip bulb. Imagine that. I saw a play some ten years ago about the height of Tulip Mania and how the market crashed eventually.
Now in the 21st century, the Netherlands is still reaping the rewards of cultivating tulips. currently there are over 2,000 kinds of tulips being cultivated by the Dutch, a love for tulips perfectly combined with an economy which brings tourists from all over the world.
In Keukenhof, the largest flower garden in the world, you will see fields of different colours surrounding this area south-west of Amsterdam. Apparently there are more than seven million tulips in bloom there in the two months each Spring when Keukenhof is open to the public. Every autumn. the gardeners spend three months cultivating the bulbs, according to the overall strategic design. Keukenhof receives about 800,000 visitors during the two months, with 30 full time gardeners looking after the beds, so flowers are kept in perfect condition throughout. We saw slightly imperfect flowers, just past their sell-by date being uprooted and carried away, in the picture below.
John and I spent a few delightful hours wandering through the various tulips, mostly outdoor but also in a large sheltered area. I can only share a very small selection of the tulips I took (about 400 photos on the day from my Iphone alone), but you can see how amazing the gardens are.
Visitors can go on a boat tour along the surrounding canals or hire a bike to see more tulip fields around the area. Given it was a perfect sky albeit a bit cool, we decided to hire a tandem, which meant that I could sit on the back, letting my cyclist husband to do most of the peddling and enjoying the sights and taking photos. Unfortunately John was pedalling so hard against the northern wind that his bike chain broke only minutes into our cycling tour.
Never mind, we still managed to struggle around the circuit and see some of the fields and had an amazing feast for our senses.
The visit to Keukenhof marked my birthday and the beginning of our new discoveries of the Netherlands, beyond Amsterdam. I learnt a lot more about the country, her art, culture and people. I will probably write more about our explorations of the Netherlands, but for now, enjoy more pictures of flowers of Holland.