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  • Writer's pictureEryn

Keukenhof - A Glimpse Into the Netherlands' Tulip Mania

Bright red tulips growing upwards against a clear blue sky in the Keukenhof flower park, the Netherlands

When you think of the Netherlands, what are some of the first things that come to mind? Whether that includes windmills, clogs, or canals, the flashing colors of tulip flowers are likely also what you're picturing. This is probably because ever since it was imported to the country from the Ottoman Empire during the sixteenth century, tulips have been ingrained as a part of Dutch culture. As one of the largest flower gardens on Earth, Keukenhof in Lisse, South Holland is a shining example of the Netherlands' passion for not only tulips but also countless other varieties of flowers. Here, this overwhelming love is shared with the world as over 7 million flowers are planted each year in anticipation of its equally numerous visitors.

Eryn kneels down to take a photo of large yellow tulips in the Keukenhof flower park in the Netherlands
My attempt to capture a different perspective of these massive yellow tulips
A patch of red, pink, orange, and white tulips under the shade of green-leaved trees in Keukenhof Flower Park, the Netherlands
One of the many beautiful scenes in Keukenhof, almost as if it were an enchanted forest

During the spring months from March to May, the 32 hectares of landscape making up Keukenhof are transformed into a seemingly endless ocean of color. You will find your eyes squinting and straining to process the brightness of the rainbow before you. Crouch down and look a little closer, however, and you will be able to appreciate how delicate and elegant the individual flowers are. Step back again, and you will then realize the immense effort that must have been involved in planning the park's landscape and the meticulous work of Keukenhof's 40 gardeners. With millions of flower bulbs to hand-plant, it takes a bewildering 3 months starting from the September before the park's opening in March to arrange them all.

A small river winds through fields of grass and tulips under green-leaved trees in Keukenhof Flower Park, the Netherlands
Eryn walks through the fields of grass and red tulips under tall green-leaved tress in Keukenhof Flower Park, the Netherlands
Walking through Keukenhof's peaceful atmosphere

With everything that is put into making the park possible, what Keukenhof has to offer is not just a tourist attraction. The Garden of Europe is also a representation of Dutch floriculture which plays a major role in the international flower industry. Worldwide, the Netherlands dominates the floricultural product trade as the largest exporter of live trees, plants, bulbs, roots, seeds, and cut flowers. If you happen to come across a flower bulb being sold, the chances are it is Dutch, as over 77% of the world's traded flower bulbs originate from the Netherlands.

A patch of orange, pink, yellow, and magenta tulips organized in rainbow-shaped rows in Keukenhof, the Netherlands
Pink tulips among purple hyacinth flowers in the Keukenhof flower park in the Netherlands
An eye-catching arrangement of purple hyacinths to highlight the bright pink tulips

While the extent of flowers in the Netherlands today is surely impressive, they cannot possibly match what tulips meant in the 17th century. During the Dutch Golden Age which was a fruitful time for the Dutch Republic, wealthy merchants began spending their money on luxury, collectible items including a particular type of tulip, "broken" tulips. These were rare bulbs that exhibited striped and speckled patterns whose newfound popularity gave rise to its own trade. Many tulips were sold for the price of a craftsman's annual earnings and one was even found to have been worth a house. Those who could afford it attempted to take advantage of the situation and turn a profit, but the market soon crumbled when buyers began refusing to pay the high prices they had promised.

Eryn stands under the branches of a tree on green grass by a lake to take a photo in Keukenhof Flower Park, the Netherlands

Stepping into Keukenhof immersed me into the world of flowers not only as a picturesque site that dazzled my eyes but also by opening them to the Netherlands' massive floricultural industry. Unfortunately, as COVID-19 has brought nearly all of the world to a halt, this past spring season seems to have never arrived. No one was there to see Keukenhof in full bloom as it was forced to keep its doors shut and the capital of the global flower trade fell silent as the millions of bulbs that were expected to be sold were composted. As we are all staying at home, seeing a major industry, which I must admit I had never known existed, suffer under the current circumstances truly emphasizes just how far-reaching this crisis has been.

Eryn stands in the distance on a bridge across a small stream that goes through trees and shrubs in Keukenhof Flower Park, the Netherlands


We visited Keukenhof in 2017 during our year-long trip around the world. Click on the link to read more!


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