14 April 2013

Seven million bulbs

Thirty-two hectares of woodland and gardens, an army of gardeners, a strict planting plan, 85 bulb suppliers and breeders, a well-executed project and ... 7,000,000 bulbs. Planted by hand. It could only be Keukenhof: a showcase for  the Dutch horticultural sector (or at least the bulb-growing bit of it) and a magnet for tourists. It's a well-oiled machine which does mean that thousands of visitors can move through the gardens without it becoming a crowded and tetchy affair, and that's no mean feat--the woods in which the bulbs are planted are peaceful even with that number of people moving through. In these few months about 800,000 visitors will wander through the gardens, marvelling at the colours, the vast swathes of plants, the verging-on-tacky souvenirs in the shops, the heady hyacinth perfume in the floral tents, the endless variations of tulips on display, not to mention the orchids, the roses, the narcissi ...

The one thing Keukenhof can't control is the weather.

And the cold weather that I've been whining and moaning about here in this blog has been experienced right across Europe. It has meant the Keukenhof is well behind schedule, which must have been disappointing for the many foreign tourists (including ourselves) who had arrived this week: it was mostly crocuses in the outside displays when we were there on Saturday, and Keukenhof markets itself on its tulips. But still it was great to see. Such order doesn't play a huge part in my own gardening life (no snorting down the back, those of you who know me) and it's always interesting to see in other gardens. But in the same way that some people feel about dogs (or even children), it's something I like to see in other people's gardens, but can't imagine in my own. It was great fun though: a marvellous spectacle and I saw some covetable new tulips (Red Raven was one, Rousillon another) and Muscari. Some of the growers do seem to believe that taller plants, bigger blooms and bizarre colours are the way to go (there were some particularly ghastly narcissi there, with huge blooms and over-frilled salmon-coloured coronas. Hideous. I couldn't even bring myself to take a photo ...), but for all that, there's some serious work too on breeding longer lasting blooms and stronger plants.

Plants weren't the only thing we saw over the weekend. B and I paid our customary visit to the Boijmans museum in Rotterdam, and I got the chance to see once again those exquisite still lifes by Pieter and Willem Claesz and the startling and stunning self-portrait by Fabritius. I've included the still lifes here, from inexpertly taken photos (you're allowed as long as you don't use flash) but I wouldn't do the self-portrait the insult of a sad little JPG, you'll just have to visit the place yourselves! The Boijmans is great -- it's far removed from its more famous counterpart in Amsterdam (the newly renovated Rijksmuseum) and wa-a-a-y quieter; you can enjoy the paintings in peace, each room rarely has more than one other visitor in it and there are really comfortable seats in which you can relax and drink it all in. And it's not only 17th century art in there; there's Magritte, Monet, Bosch, van Ruijsdael, and a stunning Rothko. Quite the mix! GO.

Anyway, here are a few images from the couple of days and many thanks to our lovely hosts, as always!

Spring comes late to Keukenhof; white crocuses form the vanguard

The best laid plans ... spot the scilla

Muscari 'Siberian Tiger'
Up close and personal (for a much better rendition, see B's photo here)
"When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple/With a red hat ..."
Cool weather, hot tulips (yes, that is a giant bulb there in the background :-))
Still life with oysters, a rummer, a lemon and a silver bowl, 1634
Willem Claesz, Heda.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Breakfast piece, 1636
Pieter Claesz
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Kitchen still life (detail), ca. 1615
Frans Snijders
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Have a good week all.


  1. I visited the Keukenhof when trapped in Amsterdam by the volcanic ash. Enjoyably over the top. The woodland garden was the best - the only naturalistic part.

  2. Thankyou! Particularly for the museum information. I felt like I was there :)

    The Keukenhof sounds very much like our Floriade show held in Canberra around the foreshore of the lake. Gazillions of tulips everywhere with the occasional forest area, though quite different species I'm sure! Our weather here has been blissful. Though Autumn, it's an indian summer and many of our flowers are having a second go at it... this is Tig (Lynette) by the way (using a different sign in via Livejournal)

  3. Yes, it's over the top alright Jamie, and fun to see. Hi Tig, thanks for dropping by. I see from another post of yours that in spite of the Indian summer, some hail fell... Hope the sun returns for a little while before Autumn takes hold.

  4. Great read but oh! Look at that artichoke!!! Stunning!