Spring brings hordes of green-fingered garden lovers to Amsterdam, all with one thing on their mind – tulips! The best time to see 70 acres of showy tulips in full bloom in Amsterdam is between late March and mid-May. The main focal point of this annual flower extravaganza is a huge park, known simply as Keukenhof.
Tulip Season in Amsterdam, Holland
When: 8 Weeks across late March, April, May
Where: Keukenhof Gardens
A Brief History of Tulips and Keukenhof
The word Keukenhof means ‘kitchen garden’, which is what these landscaped gardens began as in the early 15th century. Keukenhof Castle was built in 1641 and the gardens were landscaped in 1857, creating the lakes and gently sculpted landscapes that can still be seen today.
In 1949, a group of flower bulb exporters led by the mayor of Lisse, Mr. W.J.H. Lambooy, planned an enterprising open-air flower exhibition to boost the horticultural trade. The park was planted as a giant exhibition of spring-flowering bulbs and Keukenhof has thrilled the public every year since.
During the eight week period that Keukenhof is open, over 800,000 people visit the gardens in the Netherlands, arriving on flights to Amsterdam from all over the world.
Another surprising piece of trivia from the history books is the fact that tulips are actually not indigenous to Holland. The first bulbs were imported from the mountainous region between China and Russia, with botanists going on to create many hybrid colours and shapes. Such was the demand for tulip bulbs in the 1630s, the ensuing ‘Tulip Mania’ created an economic bubble as prices soared, but just as quickly fell back to more realistic costs, leaving investors with a sizeable loss.
What to Expect at Keukenhof Gardens
The bulb fields bordering Keukenhofare filled with a spectacular rainbow of pink, yellow, red, purple, orange, white and mixed coloured tulips. Keukenhof offers a wooden windmill with a viewing platform overlooking the bulb fields for visitors to climb up and drink in the amazing sight. 7 million flowering bulbs precisely laid out in endless lines of single colour is a truly dazzling spectacle.
Along with the endless bulb fields, Keukenhof has footpaths, show gardens and water features to discover. There are plenty of hyacinths, daffodils, tulips and other flowering bulbs on display in the Inspirational Gardens, where the flower beds are continually replanted.
The Historical Garden charts the development of tulips over the past 400 years, while the Romantic Garden provides an enchanting walk through the woods, surrounded by soft pastel shades of beautiful bulb flowers.
The Insect Garden, Herb Garden and Amsterdam Garden provide endless photo opportunities, too.
Every year, the gardens are planted to a theme, making it far more interesting for those who visit the park each year. Past themes have included Poland, Land of Great Gardens and Holland (Canal Houses).
For 2015, the chosen theme of Vincent Van Gogh celebrates the 125th anniversary of the artist’s death. A 250-square-metre flower mosaic of Van Gogh, made solely from tulips and tiny grape hyacinths (muscari), is the focal point of the event. The flower displays in the Willem-Alexander and Oranje Nassau pavilions also reflect the annual theme and are an inspiration for florists and flower arrangers.
During the festival, 100 companies display their flowering bulbs, with 20 flower shows and 500 growers presenting an array of pot plants and cut flowers. Although most visitors view Keukenhof as a must-see attraction, it’s also a huge business opportunity for Dutch bulb growers to network and promote their bulbs.
Look out for the royal suppliers, which are the exhibitors who provide their best bulbs for the Keukenhof designers to plant in unique displays. Each year, new tulip varieties and colours are on show and bulbs are available for visitors to buy direct from growers’ trade stands. Most visitors cannot resist buying some bulbs to take home as a beautiful reminder of their visit to one of the world’s most breathtaking wonders.
Tips for Attending Keukenhof
It’s advisable to purchase your admission tickets for Keukenhof online and well ahead of time so you can avoid waiting in line at the entrance.
However, before you plan your visit, you need to take into consideration the previous winter weather when the bulbs are planted and growing. A cold winter may delay the flowers, so there is less to see during the earlier part of the event. A mild winter may mean the main bulb fields have actually finished flowering by early May and have all been deadheaded. Careful planning is the key to seeing these beautiful tulips at their very best.
Tip: Find out the dates of last year’s winter bloom
Take advantage of the free guided tours available at 2pm each day – sign up at the information desk onsite.
Bring a camera, wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to get inspired to plant more tulips back home. After all, the Netherlands produces over three billion tulip bulbs every year, spreading a spectrum of colour all over the world.
Photo Credits: keukenhof.nl