Towards the end of April, the Welsh rose and I made a trip to Keukenhof, the spring and tulip gardens just outside Lisse in the Netherlands. Even for someone who might not be the biggest fan of tulips, the gardens were really impressive and well worth an especial trip to visit.
Because I took so many photos, this blogpost is liable to end up bursting at the seams. So I’ll try to focus not so much on tulip after tulip, as on details that might convince the undecided that they should go: if not this year (after all, the season is coming to an end!) then next. At the end I’ll discuss how to get there, especially from the north of England.
(Although I won’t focus completely on tulips, or even on monocotyledons, below I use “T” for tulip, “M” for Muscari, “N” for Narcissus” etc!)
Keukenhof and its rooms
Keukenhof consists of some 30 hectares in the middle of the flattest landscape you can imagine: as such, it feels like an enchanted world; you don’t get much warning of its arrival, and you don’t get much idea of the outside world when you’re in it. Pay too little attention to the horizon, and you might even miss the Keukenhof castle (we did!)
The site is divided up into many different rooms, with wildly different characters and not all oriented too tightly around bulbs of one sort or another; a Japanese garden (which was the biggest surprise):
(Just look at the “blushed apple” colours on that acer:)
A naturalistic garden, with an artificial hill (most hills are artificial in the Netherlands!):
The Zocher water garden, with huge wooden “stepping stones” across part of the lake:
And fringed by big, beefy Apeldoorns (bottom to top: yellow T. “Golden Apeldoorn”, fringed “Apeldoorn’s Elite” & red “Apeldoorn”):
Overlooking this wild bedding, covering the whole of that same artificial hill:
A long (and very frequented) tulip walk:
with beds of many different types of tulip, often cutting across the walk to give a continuation on either side (T. “Foxtrot” with M. armeniacum):
A hortus bulbarum, or natural-history garden, offshoot of the museum in Limmen (top to bottom: T. greigii; T. schrenkii & humilis; Lavendula angustifolia; T. “Van der Neer”, “Duc de Berlin”, “Cottage Maid” & “Red & White”):
Novelty gardens, including the huge Mondriaan canvas and smaller Mondriaan-themed garden:
Paths and artworks
Between the obvious “rooms” were many lovely avenues and vistas:
Sometimes, these were oriented around sculptures:
Sometimes, being in the Netherlands, these were oriented around water features:
Exhibition centres and cafes
There are several exhibition centres dotted around the site, usually with a cafe attached. The highlight was the central glasshouse of Willem-Alexander, which contained a wide assortment of different plants and stands:
Plus yes all right many tulips (top to bottom T: “Whispering Dream”; “Lambada” & “Flamenco”; the same, separately; “Dream Club” & “Candy Club”):
Oranje Nassau contained, among other things, a narcissus exhibition (top to bottom: N. “Isha”; N. “Golden Bowl”, N. “Wheatear” and two displays):
With bonus Fritillaria persicaria “Red Light District”:
and even more surprising bonus IBCs:
I think in the long term IBCs are better used for rainwater collection than illumination, but it was nice seeing them here, raining down light symbolically!
Beatrix contained a permanent orchid exhibition (top to bottom: Phalaenopsis on Delft blue china; Miltonopsis; Anthurium “India Love”; and two displays):
Finally, Juliana provided a brief history of tulips, which is I think really for children, so I’ve not taken any photos! There’s also a kind of market square, with a windmill and carillion, from where you can take boats around the tulip fields:
Every building had cafes attached, providing food and drink. The one by Juliana had this great fountain and organ:
If I had one complaint about the food, it was that every single cafe was packed. Given it was a cold day, sitting out wasn’t ideal.
Tulips, tulips, tulips
What, you want more tulips? Well, all right:
Mix, incl “Bell Song”, “China Town, “Claudia”, “Mistress”, “Monteux”, “Mysterious Parrot”, “Rasta Parrot”, “Spring Greeen”:
“Tom Pouce” (named after an iced custard dessert) with F. imperialis “William Rex”:
“Muscadet” and “Spryng Break”:
“Rodeo Drive” and “Red Riding Hood”:
“Queen of Night” and “Alabaster”:
And finally, the stunner for me, T. “Queensland” and M. “Valerie Finnis”:
I could have included so many more in this blogpost; if you want to gaze for longer on yet more photos of tulips, check out my Flickr tag “keukenhof”….
Getting to Keukenhof
As befits a tulip garden, Keukenhof is only open in the spring: this year, it closes after May 21. You can still make it, if you’re quick!
You can get to Keukenhof from the UK without flying! There are daily/nightly ferries from Hull and Harwich, to Rotterdam Europoort and Hoek van Holland respectively, and the Dutch public transport system is amazing: the ever-informative Seat 61 has all the details you’ll probably need.
If you’ve a bit more time available, you should do like we did, and stay over in Amsterdam for a few nights, as you can buy “combi” tickets including free travel from the capital to Schiphol, then transfer to a shuttle bus. Even if you stay on at Keukenhof until closing time, you’ll be back in Amsterdam in time for a late dinner.
I’ll write more about this in a later post, as there were a few gotchas. But you should try it!
Keukenhof is an awesome garden: there’s far more to it than just tulips, but the just-tulips are so heartbreakingly beautiful that they’ll probably make even the most die-hard foliage nut into a tulip fan by the end of it.
Getting there is a little fiddly (a later blogpost!) and the cafes can often fill up, so make sure you dress for the weather. And take a camera. And make sure it’s fully charged. And make sure you are too.
Although, sitting and watching the tulips from inside Juliana:
It felt a bit like recharging a battery. As did writing this blogpost! Keukenhof, I’ll be back.