2023’s Best U. S. Cities for Local Flowers
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Looking at five floral categories in the 200 largest U.S. cities, Lawn Love came up with these two lists.
They checked out access to flower shops and specialty-cut flower vendors, consumer ratings, and the number of …

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Home » Europe

Keukenhof — Now!

Submitted by on March 31, 2014 – 8:13 amNo Comment

netherlands_lisse_keukenhoff-2014If there’s one bucket list destination for Road Trips Gardeners, it’s got to be Keukenhof. This springtime extravaganza in Lisse, the Netherlands, has to be seen to be believed.

Although it opened last week (March 20, 2014), the horticultural show runs through May 18, 2014, so there’s still plenty of time to arrange your trip across the pond.

It’s hard to know what to highlight in writing about this event, now in its 65th year. Your Road Trips Gardener happened upon it by chance when driving around the Netherlands one April. There’s a Tulip Road that signposts a route past field after field of tulips and other flowering bulbs, and it ended in the parking lot of Keukenhof, the former kitchen garden of a palace.

Keukenhof started as an initiative on the part of ten flower bulb growers and exporters who create a showcase for the flower industry. In 1949, they opted for an ideal location: the gardens around Keukenhof castle. Now it’s the platform for the Dutch floricultural sector and the international and independent showcase for the industry, with a special emphasis on flowering bulbs. At Keukenhof, you’ll see every sort of flowering bulb but most especially tulips.

The tulip is the distinctive icon of the Netherlands throughout the world. And as the Keukenhof’s theme this year is Holland, it gives the tulip center stage: there are (literally) millions of tulips blooming in the park and more than a hundred thousand tulips in the Willem-Alexander pavilion.

Other reasons that make Keukenhof the place to learn everything about the tulip include the renewed historic tulip garden as well as exhibitions about the history of the tulip, 17th Century tulip mania, tulip myths and modern tulip cultivation.

The tulip traveled far before arriving in the Netherlands. Tulips were originally found in the Tian Shan mountain region of the north-western Himalaya. Dozens of different types in all kinds of colors still grow there each spring. In the 11th Century the Seljuks, who lived there at that time, took the tulip with them to Turkey, where they drove out the Byzantines.

The tulip became a cherished flower in Turkish culture, and is still so today. Sultans organized tulip parties each spring. And the most extraordinary tulips were illustrated in beautiful books. Tulips were also depicted on tiles and other household objects.

Dutch trading, including with the Mediterranean entrepôt then known as Constantinople, increased towards the middle of the 16th Century. The tulip was a new flower to the Dutch.

Botanists such as Dodeneus and Clusius managed to obtain tulip bulbs and by 1560 the first examples were flowering in Antwerp and Mechelen.

Already a popular flower in the Netherlands, at the beginning of the 17th Century the tulip became even more popular. Flowers with flame-like effects were particularly very popular. These reminded people of marble, which was also highly desirable at the time, as were shells with a marbled pattern.

Slow tulip bulb reproduction meant supply didn’t increase quickly, but demand did. This led to speculation, with each buyer paying higher amounts than the previous one. The first speculation, or tulip mania, was born. The mania reached its height between 1634 and 1637, with more than a thousand Dutch guilders being paid for some tulips: an astronomic amount, particularly at that time. Bulb speculation ended in February 1637, but the tulip’s popularity in the Netherlands still continues today.

Alexander Dumas’s book, The Black Tulip (“La Tulipe Noire”), was published in 1850 and with it, a myth was born. It tells the story of a competition in Haarlem in which a large sum was offered to anyone who could develop a black tulip. Set in 1672, the story made an indelible impression on many, and still appeals to the imagination today.

The color black does not exist in nature; it is actually intense red or purple. Since the end of the 19th Century various cultivars have been introduced that were almost black. Of these, the ‘Queen of the Night’ is still popular, with some 60 ha still being cultivated. Other, more modern cultivars include ‘Ronaldo’ and ‘Blackjack’.

The Netherlands is the world’s largest producer of tulip bulbs, with a surface area of 10,000 hectares providing an annual 4.2 billion bulbs. Approximately half of these are exported abroad. The other half remain in the Netherlands, mainly for flowering in winter as cut flowers. Almost 2,000 different cultivars are cultivated commercially, with about 100 new cultivars added annually.

(Photo courtesy of Keukenhof)

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