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Home Articles a riot of colors
a riot of colors

A riot of colours


By Sajid M. Qazi

A park in the Netherlands displays a rich, eye-catching variety of brightly coloured tulips

THE very mention of the Netherlands evokes many images. To some people, it is a land of windmills; and for others it is home to great painters. But for a photographer in love with landscapes and nature, it is a country where tulips live. And what better place to witness a million tulips than visit the Keukenhof Park.

In the middle ages, the land where the park is now located, was part of property belonging to Countess Jacoba van Beieren (1401-1436), whose three husbands included the Duke of Gloucester and the Dauphin of France. History tells us that on the fields (where one can now visit the Keukenhof Park) the countess and her entourage would go hunting, while vegetables and herbs were grown to be used in the kitchen of her castle. ‘Keuken’ in Dutch means kitchen and ‘hof’ means garden. And that’s how the name was chosen.

In 1949 a group of prominent Dutch bulb growers developed a plan to hold a flower exhibition to show visitors the many varieties and the splendour of the Dutch bulb flower industry. The organizers of the exhibition chose the heart of the bulb district where they could display the flowers, and they were lucky to find this lovely countryside nearby. The wonderful park called ‘The Keukenhof’ is now the world’s largest flower garden. For four decades the park has been receiving visitors from all over the world.

The park comprises many gardens. The gardens, which are near Lisse, cover 70 acres on which roughly six million bulbs are planted every year. Every garden has a specific design and character. You have to climb the steps of the Groningen-type cornmill to witness the view and hear the clock-carillon play internationally known tunes every 15th minute. At the exhibition you can have a look at some 30 sculptures and other objets d’art throughout the park.

A huge indoor spring garden is staged in 7,000 square metres of pavilions during the annual spring exhibition in April and May, where over 500 different varieties can be seen in 10 indoor flowershows under the name ‘Parade’.

The flower bulbs for the Keukenhof Park are supplied by approximately one hundred companies. The bulbs are planted by some 30 gardeners from end of September until the first frost. The park has been using layered planting for the past 10 years to ensure that plenty of colours can be seen throughout the entire park from March until May. This means that the bulbs are planted on top of each other. First comes the late-blooming tulips, deepest in the ground, above them the early-blooming tulips, and above them the crocuses. This way colours show three times at the same spot in the park, from early in the season until quite late in the season. In addition to the millions of flower bulbs that are planted, more than 6,500 kilos of grass seeds are sown each year in order to cultivate a fresh green lawn beside the colourful splendour of the flowers.

It is not only the flower presentations that is to be admired; but the flowers are also a source of inspiration so that people can start working with bulbs themselves. The themes of colour, smell, renaissance, abstract style, water and borders are all elaborated in a specific garden, on a small and simple scale that can be applied at home. The information stand at the park can provide answers to questions about planting spring and summer bulbs and perennials, and also about starting and maintaining a garden. In the Nature Garden, bulb and tuberous plants are combined with perennials in a natural setting. This also happens in the Music Garden. In this garden which contains, amongst others, some special bulb plants, music can be heard along the wood-chip trail and the pond. In the Historical Garden, through wooden doors, visitors step back into history to the middle ages. In this ‘secret’ walled garden, all types of special old bulb pants and kitchen herbs are cultivated. The park also has a Japanese Garden. It is a modern garden, with a much more playful design than traditional Japanese gardens.

If you are passing by the land of tulips in the spring season, just stroll around the park. Take a leisurely walk or enjoy it all sitting on a bench sipping coffee. See for yourself where artists like the famous Dutch painters found inspiration through the ages. I am sure it will be the most colourful spring in your life.