Dutch Flower paradise open for season

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
This time every year, when the Dutch bulb fields burst into a rainbow of colors, thousands of people flock to the lovely country site of Keukenhof, The Netherlands, also known as the heart of the Holland bulb district.

Keukenhof was founded in 1949 when a group of prominent Dutch bulb-growers from the area around Lisse (between Haarlem and Leiden) displayed many varieties of flowers in a landscape setting. It was their aim to exhibit flowering tulips, daffodils, narcissi, hyacinths and other small-bulb varieties in natural surroundings to show how bulbs can be used for private gardening. The Keukenhof exhibition founders realized already-existing bulb fields were only beautiful for a relatively short time; however, the exhibition enabled visitors to enjoy the beauty of the bulb flowers during their entire flowering period.

Historical charm
Keukenhof has both charm and splendor. Almost six centuries ago, from 1401 to 1436, the expedition grounds belonged to Countess Jacoba van Beieren. She and her entourage used the property for hunting. Part of the garden was used for plants and herbs for the countess' kitchen. The word for kitchen is "keuken" in Dutch, and the word for garden is "hof," so the name of the world's largest flower display dates back to the Middle Ages.

It's not the historic name, though, that entices tourists to the Keukenhof. Rather, it's nature that lures people in. Some six to seven million bulbs are planted on the grounds each year. Weaving their way between magnificent trees and shrubs, the blooming beauties convince even the most reluctant of walkers to wander through some of the 70 acres of tree-studded garden. Visitors who want to see as much of the Keukenhof as possible can opt for a 10-mile trek through various breathtaking settings.

Indoor exhibitions, parades
Outdoors, the bulbs are only in bloom eight or nine weeks each year, but they're cultivated in glass houses year-round. For the two months that Keukenhof is open to the public, a grand display of 500 different varieties of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other bulbs are displayed. An area of 7,000 square meters of greenhouses has a permanent and unique flower show as well as a huge indoor spring garden available throughout the duration of the exhibition. Different exhibitions are held in glass houses and buildings elsewhere on the grounds. A special greenhouse has a large collection of extraordinary indoor flowers. A total of about 10 indoor exhibitions or parades are available either in the greenhouse or the Queen Beatrix Pavilion.

Keukenhof has multiple themed gardens in which flower bulbs play the lead role -- abstract, scent, color, Renaissance, style, border and rockery-shadow-water.

Special attractions
Other special attractions and events at Keukenhof include a windmill, the "Carillion," and art exhibitions. The popular authentic windmill originates from 1892 and was used to grind corn in the north Dutch province of Groningen. From there, visitors have a beautiful view of Keukenhof and surrounding bulb fields stretching hundreds of acres. Every 15 minutes you can hear an 18 bronze-clock carillon play internationally-known tunes. It's located near the Terras Smalle Bos. Every year, a number of artists exhibit about 30 sculptures and other objects of art throughout the park.

There are restaurants, sunny terraces and coffee shops available at the Keukenhof, as well as a huge parking lot.

Special events
The annual international flower parade takes place April 16. The theme this year is "Germany." The international flower exhibition has dictated Germany as the "Land of Poets and Philosophers," which will be the central theme for the parade.

For the past several years, the Keukenhof has chosen to feature a different country for the theme of each season.

The musical ensemble De Ladykanties will entertain visitors 5-8 p.m. April 16 at the Keukenhof "An den Muehlenplatz" area.

Opening times and entry
The Keukenhof is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. through May 20. Entry is possible until 6 p.m. The price is 14.50 Euro for adults and 7 Euro for children 4-11 years old. Children under 4 years old enter for free. Groups of 20 people or more pay 12.50 Euro per person. Parking tickets are 6 Euro.

For more information, call Keukenhof Information at 31-(0) 252 465 555.