Is this the ultimate flower garden? Keukenhof.

An early morning mist sweeps in from the North Sea but nothing can detract from the myriad of colours stretching through the trees and down to the lake.

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Reds, purples, yellows and whites in great blocks of colour , often compared to a Piet Mondrian painting.

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This is the world’s second largest flower garden, Keukenhof in the Netherlands, almost 80 acres filled with 7 million bulbs.

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There are wide open areas with vast blocks of colour,  (the bulbfields can be visited separately by boat)

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as well as the more intimate areas, the size of an average back garden, styled to give inspiration to the domestic gardener;

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as well as the formal walled historical garden

The enclosed historic garden outlining Holland's 400 years of tulip cultivation

The enclosed historic garden outlining Holland’s 400 years of tulip cultivation

and the stepped canal surrounded by topiary.

The stepped canal

The stepped canal

At 8am, only the sound of birdsong from ancient trees and the rush of water from the many fountains, can be heard. This is the best time of day to be here. By midday, vast numbers arrive, though most disperse quickly into its 32 hectares.

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If you are a tulip lover this is the place to visit, armed with pen and paper to note the varieties which you will plant in autumn.

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The tulips are well labelled and it is a chance to see the precise growing habit and colour, as well as how well they mix with others.

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Tulipa ‘Micky Mouse’.

Since tulips are ‘early’, ‘mid-season’ or ‘late’, the time in Spring you visit will mean some are past their best whilst others will be in stunning full bloom. The best time to visit is mid-April, but of course it is weather-dependent.

Pink Double Early 'Foxtrot' with muscari

Just going over – Pink Double Early ‘Foxtrot’ with muscari

Keukenhof Gardens were the 15th century hunting grounds of the Countess of Hainaut. It also provided herbs for the kitchen – hence its Dutch name “Keuken-hof” meaning “kitchen court”.

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In the 19th century, the grounds were landscaped by the Zochers (makers of Vondelpark in Amsterdam). creating winding paths beckoning you onwards, with glimpses through to the lake.

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Water is featured here a lot – formal fountains, the lake, rills and canals .. all providing opportunities for reflection.

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After the Second World War, the parkland was suggested as a showcase for Dutch bulb growers to help kickstart the industry and so it has progressed from there.

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Tulips need a period of cold dormancy in winter, “vernalisation”, cool springs and dry summers. They should be planted deep in well-drained soil.

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There are 15 categories/divisions of tulips, (though they are often classified by their flowering season), including Parrot, Rembrandt. Viridiflora, Kaufmanniana, Fringed, Lily-flowered … it’s their variety as well as the range of colours which is so appealing. So many yet to try!

Here are a few which caught my eye this year, as well as old favourites :

Single late 'World Expression'

Single late ‘World Expression’


Single early 'Couleur Cardinal'

Single early ‘Couleur Cardinal’


Single late Tulipa 'Menton'

Single late Tulipa ‘Menton’ – the colour is more exquisite than visible here


One of my favourites : 'Prinses Irene'

One of my favourites :
‘Prinses Irene’

Not to everyone’s liking, ‘Picture’ seems to have quite a small (though very pretty) flowerhead for its tall stem, but this would look elegant in a formal box-edged bed.

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Single Late Tulipa 'Picture'

Single Late Tulipa ‘Picture’

The bold colouring of Tulipa 'Helmar'

The bold colouring of Tulipa ‘Helmar’ looks great in pots.

Wonderfully showy parrot tulip 'Estella Rijnveld'

Wonderfully showy parrot tulip ‘Estella Rijnveld’

The more subtle colouring of 'Shirley' and 'Innuendo'

The more subtle colouring of ‘Shirley’ and ‘Innuendo’

Some of you may have read an earlier post I wrote last autumn – “Tulip Mania” … many more beautiful tulips are featured there.

This autumn there’ll be a few more bulbs added to the mix. Colour is so important in a garden, especially in the Spring.

16 thoughts on “Is this the ultimate flower garden? Keukenhof.

  1. Jardin! You’re back! I have missed your excellent and thoughtful posts. Thank you most sincerely for this one. I would have supposed this magnificent garden to be beyond description but you captured it nicely – as always. Thanks.


  2. Oh Jim, I can’t thank you enough for your lovely comment. My dear father passed away on 1st May after some months of illness and it felt good today to get back to gardens and writing. He taught me so much about nature and plants. Your comment cheered me up so much.


  3. I am so sorry to read of your loss. No matter what age you are, or they were, the loss of a parent is intensely felt. As a gardener I hope you find solace in nature’s cycles and all the graceful, life-affirming qualities of flowers, not least all these splendid tulips so beautifully photographed.


  4. What a truly magnificent garden! Your photos are really excellent. I had no idea that there were so many different colours and types of tulips. Each one is more exquisite than the last. Thanks so much for sharing these. I’m so sorry about your dear father. Please accept my sincere condolences and a *hug*


  5. Perfect images of Keukenhof! It was dreary in my part of the world today; these splashes of color are the perfect anecdote. 🙂

    I also appreciated your words about the history and how to nurture tulips. I visited Keukenhof 30 years ago, and don’t remember much about the trip other than tulips, and wishing my step-grandma could have been with me — her family was from that area. But I did get a few bulbs shipped to her in Michigan, USA!

    Thanks for the dose of sunshine!


    • Thank you Cindi. It’s certainly colourful at Keukenhof!
      I’m sure your step-Grandma enjoyed the bulbs from there – Lisse is very pretty and we had a memorable lunch on the outskirts of Amsterdam by the water and with a windmill in the background.


  6. Pingback: Clusius and the Historical Garden at Keukenhof. | Jardin

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