An overdue visit to Keukenhof Garden in Holland
Keukenhof Garden near Amsterdam puts on an astounding annual display of spring flowering bulbs.
At the end of a cold and grey winter in Europe visitors flood to see this colour spectacle but there are vast numbers of visitors from America, China, India and South East Asia. Keukenhof Garden is a mecca for tulip lovers and draws visitors to Holland from all over the world.
I had a long standing invite to see this great garden but until this year, due to work commitments, had never been able to go.
Getting to the garden is easy. For us a flight from Bristol to Schiphol and an easy train journey quickly had us settled in the middle of this, the largest area of bulb growing in the world. Looking back, we could have driven or even brought our motor home but the Dutch public transport system works so well that we would have missed out on that experience. For our visit to the garden we actually used the local bus service since, although the main line is close by, there is no rail station nearby.
It’s a Popular Place!
Keukenhof Garden is used to handling large numbers of visitors during the short 10 week period that it is open. A few days before our visit there was apparently 900 coaches in their car park and visitor numbers range between 30,000 to 60,000 per day! However, although there were a lot of visitors we experienced only short queues and never felt crowded within this 32 hectare garden. This is a well oiled machine with very well trained and polite staff.
Originally the kitchen garden of the old castle, the garden is for Holland surprisingly undulating and lightly wooded with many fine old trees.
Every year about 7 million bulbs are supplied and planted by 200 of the major bulb growers of Holland. Our timing (mid April) was perfect for tulips, Scilla and hyacinths. An earlier visit would have enabled us to see daffodils at their best.
This is the shop window for new varieties of bulbs but also enables growers and garden designers to lead the way and inspire us gardeners to use bulbs in a more imaginative way. Bold blocks and contrasting combinations dominate but occasionally a vast range are planted together so that direct comparisons are more easily made.
Most bulbs are grown in the ground. They are planted in late autumn, flower in spring and then harvested before fresh stock is again replanted. This ensures that every year the display is fresh and different.
Happy 70th Birthday Keukenhof Garden!
2019 is the seventieth year of this bulb extravaganza! To celebrate this there is a strong theme running throughout many of the displays. “Flower Power” was chosen to mark this significant landmark.
Using bulbs to create a design, in much the same way that annual bedding plants have been used in the past, I spotted these perfectly Instagrammable gardens.
Wet Weather Visits
Our visit to Keukenhof Garden coincided with a fabulous spell of warm weather where sun cream was more the order of the day than umbrellas! Should you be unlucky on the day of your visit there are several large covered halls in the garden. Here you’ll find seasonal themed displays to inspire! Flower Power was the theme in one of these halls and it brought back memories of my youth. Yes, I’m of the flower power generation – make peace not war!
Container Bulbs Growing
You’ll find a few inspiring displays of tulips growing in many conventional and unconventional containers. To be frank, I had expected more but those I saw were very good. All manner of up-cycled container was used and often positioned in unconventional places.
Papal Easter Bulbs
My visit coincided with the blessing of bulbs destined to grace St Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Easter Urbi et Orbi Blessing Address. The bulbs were blessed by Bishop Van den Hende of Rotterdam before they were loaded on a truck to make their way to Rome.
Do I Recommend a visit to Keukenhof Garden?
I most certainly do! But don’t wait as many years as I have to do it.
Link your visit to seeing the amazing nearby bulb fields.
Visit the delightful Tulip Museum in Amsterdam.
Try also to fit in a trip to one of Holland’s oldest botanic gardens at Leiden called Hortus Botanicus.
Here I recommend bulbs for naturalising.
If daffodils are blind i.e. have no flowers, I have the answer here
Earlier this year I visited Broadleigh Gardens who are a major specialist British bulb supplier
If you like to grow bulbs indoors then you might like to read this
If you’re interested in growing snowdrops read about Chelsea Physic Garden here.
You may like to read about my visit to a private garden with hundreds of snowdrop varieties
I was interested to hear that tulips are planted late in Holland just like here in Britain. Read about why this is here.