One of the world’s most spectacular horticultural sights lies on the borders of historic Lisse, the centre of the Netherlands’ flower-growing region. Found to the south-west of Amsterdam, the Keukenhof Gardens open for seven weeks every year with a spectacular canvas of daffodils, hyacinths and – of course – tulips on offer. A remarkable assault on the senses, the festival celebrates its 67th anniversary from 24th March – 16th May this year with an arresting collection of more than 7 million bulbs in bloom, including 800 varieties of Holland’s most distinctive flower. There’s little wonder it’s referred to as the Garden of Europe.
Keukenhof Gardens in 2016
2016’s theme is ‘The Golden Age’, a look back at the Netherlands‘ rich trading history. Central to the festival will be a garden dedicated to Dutch sailors who traversed the open seas in the 17th century. The display honours the glamorous life they led seeking out new botanical species, as well as their critical contribution to arts, trade and science. Inspired by the famous Delft Blue tiles, the centrepiece is a mosaic depicting the rich canal-side houses of Amsterdam, carefully crafted from an assortment of blue and white spring bulb flowers.
History of the Garden of Europe
Literally translated as the ‘kitchen garden’, the beautiful Keukenhof gardens were originally hunting grounds, but gained their name when used as a source of herbs for Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria in the 15th century. Over the following decades, the estate grew dramatically in size and was redesigned by the acclaimed landscape architects behind Amsterdam’s iconic Vondelpark in the 1850s. Today, Keukenhof is a world-famous attraction, renowned as both the best showcase for the Dutch floricultural sector and a stunning tourist site that draws in more than a million visitors each year.
Things to do at the Keukenhof Gardens
One of the highlights of the 2016 showcase is the Historical Garden, greatly influenced by Carolus Clusius, a pioneering horticulturalist who laid the foundations for the Dutch bulb industry. Proudly displaying varieties of tulips cultivated over centuries, the cultural importance of these gardens becomes increasingly clear to visitors throughout their uniquely sensory experience. It’s not all about tulips though, with the Willem-Alexander Pavilion hosting a fantastic selection of lilies towards the end of the season. If you happen to be in the Netherlands on 23rd April, the Flower Parade is a must-see. Awash with an incredible spectrum of colours, a number of flower-adorned floats make their way from Noordwijk to Haarlem past the Keukenhof Gardens accompanied by a live band, and the route passing alongside the gardens. Finally, the Romantic Garden makes for the perfect place for a couple’s stroll, so perch on one of the surrounding arbours and add your message of love to the collection.
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