Keukenhof

IMG_6620-002Betty was lucky enough to visit Keukenhof in the Netherlands earlier this year and at the October meeting, she shared her stories, photos and videos with us. You couldn’t have had a more keen (or jealous!) audience for this presentation. And Betty didn’t let us down.

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Keukenhof (kitchen courtyard) first began as an area of woodland where fruit and vegetables were gathered on the large estate of a local lord back in the 15th century. In 1641 Keukenhof Castle was built and in the intervening centuries the property has seen a few changes. The park we see today had its start in 1949 when a group of 20 flower bulb exporters set up a permanent exhibition of spring-flowering bulbs on the site.

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Keukenhof is located in the town of Lisse and the surrounding region is the heart of the spring-bulb growing industry for which the Netherlands is famous. The original form of tulips come from the Himalayas and were first cultivated in Turkey. But it was the Netherlands that turned this stunning flower into a global commodity. There’s actually a term for the era of the boom and bust of the Dutch Tulip market: Tulip Mania. It has made it into the history books as the first speculative economic bubble. In March of 1637 a single tulip bulb (granted, a rather nice bulb 🙂 ) sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.  Obviously that insanity couldn’t last and when the bubble burst, the citizens of Holland and the whole country felt the impact. This is a fascinating topic with plenty of books and research easy to find – but it’s not the topic of Betty’s talk or this post so I can only suggest you visit the library to see what you can uncover if your curiosity is whetted!

Back to the park… Besides tulips, there are pretty much every other kind of bulb on display (lilies, hyacinths, daffodils…) with mass plantings that are designed to last the duration of the season (mid March to mid May). The park is divided into many different gardens, all planned a year in advance, all hand-planted by an army of workers who spend months on hands and knees in the dirt, all dug up at the end of the season so next year’s display can be prepared. There is also a parade with floats made of – obviously – spring bulb-flowers.
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From the looks of Betty’s presentation I imagine Keukenhof is someplace you could spend days, not just hours, and someplace you wouldn’t mind returning to again and again. Of course it is in Northern Europe so maybe not the easiest place to reach each spring. Luckily we have Bowral’s Tulip Time Festival that runs from early September to late October. It’s on a smaller scale but still, a lovely display of spring flowers.

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One (sad) truth worth noting – it was unanimous in the garden club meeting that this region is lousy for growing tulips. Oh well, most of us have no problems filling our garden beds without these showy flowers.

This month has 5 Thursdays so on Thursday 29 October we’re going to Mt Tomah. Our next meeting is November, 5 October 2015 when we have our annual Plant and Flower Show (details posted shortly). Don’t forget to check out the gardening article in the Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine. It features information about the goings on in this club.

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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