Excerpts from 750-word article


By Pam Hobbs

There is no mistaking the season when spring arrives in Lisse, for this is the bulb-growing region of Holland where tulip fields spread like multi-coloured carpets over the countryside. It's a time when sightseeing buses clog the highways for miles around, and all roads lead to Keukenhof.

Tulips have been synonymous with Holland since the sixteenth century, when they were introduced from Turkey and became something of a cult. By 1637 they were the subject of great speculation and were listed on the stock exchange, with some rare bulbs selling for thousands of dollars each. Then the market crashed, "tulipmania" fizzled out, and many a Dutchman lost everything. Nowadays, as visitors to the Aalsmeer auction halls and bulb fields of Lisse discover, the export of tulips is very big business in Holland.

Keukenhof's gardens began in 1949, when a group of local bulb growers sought to create natural settings for flower displays which could last six to eight weeks, in contrast to the commercially grown flowers planted in regimental rows and cut prematurely in the interests of the bulb.

Some 100 growers, each with their own section to landscape, plant an estimated six million bulbs. There were woodland scenes with ducks and swans rippling picturesque ponds; avenues of narcissi, daffodils and tulips bordered with beautiful flowering trees. Formal gardens contain traditional fountains and ornamental ponds, and occasionally great ribbons of colour created with blocks of flowers several feet wide. Dark blue hyacinths are followed by golden daffodils and scarlet tulips, then maybe a stretch of yellow and white narcissi, with more hyacinths to colour in the pinks and mauves.

You will want to follow most of the eighteen kilometers of footpaths winding through the displays, so I suggest you wear comfortable shoes.