Well, what a winter we have had in northern Europe! Normally by now the garden would be full of spring flowers: bulbs, tulips more than any, and blossom on the trees and shrubs, but no.
This weekend the weather is finally changing and no doubt spring will start like the finale of a firework show – so perhaps its time to make a visit to the bulb fields of the Netherlands.
Indeed, 2013 is a very good time to visit Holland as a lot is happening. King Willem-Alexander will be crowned on 30 April in Amsterdam. The city is celebrating 400 years since the start of building its network of major canals and this month the Rijks Museum reopens after ten years of rebuilding. Although the Van Gogh Museum is now closed for rebuilding works, all Amsterdam’s other famous museums are finally open after a decade of refurbishments including the Stedelijk Museum for modern art, the Maritime Museum and the architectural jewel of the new film museum – Het Eye.
But as gardeners you will want to see gardens and plants and since its spring this means tulips. Here is a short summary of where to go:
Keukenhof is the national exhibition garden for the Dutch bulb industry and is compulsory for any visitors in April and early May. In design terms it is very conventional. Attempts to invite designer in to bring the displays up to date have not really worked well, but there is nowhere else in the world where you will see such a diverse display of bulbs grown to perfection in a splendid landscape park setting.
Hortus Bulborum is less than an hours drive from Amsterdam and is a living collection of old and historic tulip varieties. There is no design here, just a field with a living gene pool for the breeders of new varieties to dip into. Here you can see the ancient virus infected forms that were cause of the famous tulip mania in the seventeenth century. The setting in a small village with the church in the background is delightful, but do ring in advance and arrange for a guide to be available to show you around the collection as this will make it a far more worthwhile visit.
At the botanic garden in Amsterdam – the Hortus Botanicus – there is a special exhibition this year celebrating the tulip and in particular the wild species. I have yet to visit as I am sure the cold weather has delayed things, but this is another must do.
Additionally, in the centre of the city a number of parks and private gardens have been planted up with tulips as part of the city’s 400 year celebrations. The climax is on 26 and 27 April when the gardens behind the canal houses are open to the public.
Start your tour of Amsterdam’s tulip route at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum or get information at the tourist information office (VVV).
The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is well worth a visit. Here you can learn about tulips, buy souvenirs and order bulbs of a very high quality. I wrote about all they have to offer last year – here.
Finally its time for tulips.