Clusius and the History of Tulips at Keukenhof.

Carolus Clusius (1526-1609), the name may not be immediately familiar, but this 16th century pioneering botanist laid the foundations of Dutch tulip breeding through his observations of tulips “breaking”, the virus which leads to their variation.

Carolus Clusius

Carolus Clusius


His contribution is acknowledged in this delightful  historical walled garden at Keukenhof, a soothing retreat from the kaleidoscope of colour beyond.

Formal layout in the Historical Garden at Keukenhof

Formal layout in the Historical Garden at Keukenhof

Tulips originate in the Himalayas but in the 11th century were introduced to Turkey by the Seljuks and remained an important cultural emblem there. Dutch trading with Constantinople brought the bulb north, where botanists like Clusius  studied and wrote about them. By the 17th century tulip mania had taken hold. And how grateful we are today for the Dutch expertise in tulip bulbs, producing over 4 billion bulbs a year.

The entrance to the walled garden is through an avenue of pleached trees , creating a sense of enclosure.

The walled Historic Garden, Keukenhof

The walled Historic Garden, Keukenhof

The formality continues inside with clipped beech, yew and box hedging, and square lead containers of lavender leading to the statue of Clusius.

Keukenhof 112

But of course it’s the tulips we want to see and there are tulip varieties cultivated for four centuries, such as Tulipa schrenkii, which Clusius would have known, as well as new varieties of tulips and daffodils soon to be introduced. All enclosed in their box-edged geometric beds.

Keukenhof tulips




Keukenhof 105


Hoops of wisteria, especially in an enclosed space, fill the air with scent.

Since many of the tulips are yet to be introduced, I can’t furnish names.

Just in case you were wondering.




15 thoughts on “Clusius and the History of Tulips at Keukenhof.

  1. Just visited Keukenhof and after reading your very interesting article, made sure I saw the historic garden. I noted each planting here was numbered. Do you know if it is possible to obtain a list of the varieties? I would be interested in obtaining and growing some of them.


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