Exploring Keukenhof GardensColin Campbell-Preston
For just eight weeks every year, one of the world’s most beautiful public gardens blooms into life. Keukenhof Gardens, located just outside the Dutch capital of Amsterdam, is lovingly known as the Garden of Europe as it springs to life with one of the great symbols of the Netherlands, the tulip.
More than 32 hectares of beautiful land is dedicated to the beauty and wonderful scents of seven million tulips – in colours and horticultural designs you would never think possible. Although only open between mid-March and mid-May, more than one million people visit Keukenhof Gardens every year, demonstrating the amazing lure of this captivating garden.
We were lucky enough to visit the beautiful gardens this year, and this is what we found.
Even before you pass through the front gates of Keukenhof Gardens, you’re treated to an absolute visual feast. Many of the tulips featured in the gardens are grown in the surrounding fields, taking over huge expanses of land. The spectacle of huge fields completely awash with vibrant reds and stunning pinks is a wonderful welcome on your approach.
With experts carefully tending to these vast swathes of beautiful floral-flush fields, getting up close to the tulip patches on the approach is a great way to whet your appetite for the visual feast of Keukenhof Gardens.
With the gardens only open for eight weeks a year, incredible care is put into producing as awe-inspiring a spectacle as possible. Inspired by classic French and English garden designs, Keukenhof is split into two distinct areas.
Upon walking through the main entrance, you’ll find the French garden-inspired section directly to your right. With geometrically designed paths surrounding the floral exhibitions and extravagant water features; you’re transported to palatial grounds which would delight even Louis XIV. The distant side of the park is made up of winding paths, similarly complemented by amazing floral decorations – creating an authentic English garden spectacle.
Positioned between the two distinct areas of the garden is the Willem-Alexander centre, a large indoor shop and exhibition. With a countless selection of tulips of every colour under the sun available to peruse and purchase, the Willem-Alexander will ship the bulbs direct to your home during its preferred planting season.
For the Kids
Not just a garden designed for keen horticulturalists, Keukenhof has plenty for all ages to enjoy. With an ambition to get the younger generation excited about gardening and the great outdoors, there are a number of kid-friendly exhibitions and features dotted around the park.
The petting zoo gives kids a chance to meet a few farmyard favourites including miniature pigs and chickens, as well a number of more exotic animals such as alpacas and giant rabbits. With no restrictions, the kids are free to feed and pet the friendly animals, with a dedicated care team on hand to answer any questions.
Throughout the gardens, there are a number of places for the kids to run and play without fear of accidentally kicking the head off a beautiful tulip or hyacinth. As well as the considerable play area, the gardens are full of fun hiding places and structures to climb. And after a long day exploring and playing, the Beatrix café sells the gooiest cookies this side of the Rijksmuseum.
Tulips are eternally entwined with the Netherlands, one of the iconic images of the nation. For almost 500 years, they have blossomed in the country, delighting the locals and visitors. However, tulips are not native to the Nertherlands, having only been shipped to the country in the mid-16th century from Turkey and Asia.
The flowers were transported to the affluent cities of Europe – Vienna, Augsburg, Antwerp and Amsterdam – and it was in the Dutch capital where the flowers enjoyed huge popularity. With rich colours and evocative scents unlike any other flowers found in Europe at the time, tulips caused quite the stir when they made their way to the western end of the continent.
With the Netherlands at the forefront of global trade, tulips soon became a coveted luxury item and a symbol of affluence. The tulip growers of Amsterdam were able to cultivate a number of great tulip varieties: red, yellow, or white were known as Couleren; the multi-coloured Rosen (white streaks on a red or pink background), Violetten (white streaks on a purple or lilac background), and the rarest of all, the Bizarden (Bizarres), (yellow or white streaks on a red, brown or purple background).
This period is lovingly referred to as Tulipomania, when the entire nation and its trade partners were incredibly enamoured with the beautiful little flowers.
And to this day, the spirit of Tulipomania remains, with visitors from all around the world paying homage to the Netherlands’ adopted flower.
Tulip bulbs are available throughout all the Capital Gardens stores throughout August, helping add a touch of Dutch flavour to your back garden. Visit our homepage or call us today on 0208 348 5054 for more information about our three garden centres.