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MY LIFE WITH PLANTS: Off to Keukenhof

Purple Kaleidoscope.  Attribution: Jim Bishop

By Jim Bishop.

This May, Scott and I finally decided it was time to visit the tulip fields at Keukenhof in the Netherlands – described as the largest flower garden in the world. We’ve known about them for decades and many people (maybe you?) have visited them. However, we were worried that it would be a bit kitschy and commercial for our taste, so decided to enliven the trip a bit by doing it as multiday bike ride starting and ending in Amsterdam. I could write an entire article about bike riding in the Netherlands, but let’s just leave it at this: they have some amazing cycling roads and paths where you rarely interact with motorized vehicles. It was also rainy and cold, a lot like one of our coldest winter days in San Diego, but wearing all our winter clothes and rain gear we managed to do OK, partially due to having rented electric bikes and a navigation system.

Purple Fringed Tulip.  Attribution: Jim Bishop.

Anyway, back to Keukenhof…

We arrived just in time for a huge rain and hailstorm to pass through. That delayed our entering the garden for a while. There were busloads of tourists from all over the world and the gardens were quite crowded in the morning. However, with the rain still on the tulips, it made from some great photos and in the afternoon the sun came out for a while, which also made for some more great photos. Perhaps it was all the flowers, or my new camera, but I took the most photos I’ve ever taken in one day, over 400. Scott, with his I-phone, also took more photos than he’s ever taken in single day.

Flower Power.  Attribution: Jim Bishop.

Many had told us that we were at the end of the tulip season, but we never would have known it with all of the display beds, gardens and pots overstuffed with tulips in full bloom. They must spend a lot of time switching out the flowers to keep everything looking so pristine and in full bloom for several months. The theme of the gardens this year was a salute to the 1960’s, “Flower Power.” There were Volkswagen bugs and hippy vans in some of the gardens and an entire green house filled with tie-dyed walls with matching floral displays. However, not everything was tulips. There were huge pots of amaryllis, begonias, and countless other flowers. One entire greenhouse was dedicated entirely to orchids.

Waterway and Tulips  Attribution: Jim Bishop.

Outside, Keukenhof has managed to use tulips about everyway possible. From gigantic pots, to rivers of color, to landscape displays along waterways and ponds, to mixed beds creating a kaleidoscope colors. Lots of time and hours went into creating the various color schemes and themes. Just when we thought we had seen it all, we’d come into a new area with a totally different mood and a different way of displaying the blooms. It helps that tulips also come in some amazing variations, more than I ever imagined: traditional, egg-shaped, fringed, double, bi-colored, lily-flowered, peony-flowered, tall, short, upright, swaying, swirling, and countless more. The same can be said about the colors, which ranged from the almost black to the purest white, pastels, bright tropical colors and everything in between except blue.

Color Rainbow.  Attribution: Jim Bishop.

It was overwhelming, and we managed to stay almost until closing time. Even though I don’t recommend tulips for San Diego gardens (way too much work for a short, unsustainable, display), I highly recommend a springtime visit to the commercial capital of tulips.

Swaying Tulips.  Attribution: Jim Bishop.

You can see more photos of our visit on Facebook.

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