Keukenhof is the famous show garden for the international bulb industry. Seven million bulbs go into the ground to provide a twelve week long extravagant display of this important export product from the Netherlands.
I was there on the opening day. The weather has been mild and bulbs are early this year. I was interested to see early flowering Narcissus daffodils and they were there in abundance. One of the features of Keukenhof is that all the bulbs are labeled whilst flowering and this allows you to note down names for you to order for growing in your own garden next year. Surprisingly, this year, on the first day, very few flowering bulbs had a name board. Disappointed, I decided to just make a few general photos as I strolled around these beautiful garden in the warm sunshine.
Do yellow daffodils work alongside winter flowering heathers? I had ask myself this question recently as a garden I have been designing recently features heathers. Well maybe they look OK, at least this out-of-the-way corner in the Keukenhof gave my a clear example to think about.
Mixtures of bulbs have become a feature of the Keukenhof in recent years. So early in the year the range of bulbs is somewhat limited and this gives the results more clarity and impact. Later in the season there is a tendency for far too many different types and colours to be mixed together. Understandably, the bulb exporters want to show off everything they have to offer.
I don’t use Hyacinths in my planting plans; they seem too cultivated to me. Surprisingly, the two plants I noticed the most and which were labeled were Hyacinths. A new yellow one called Yellowstone was clearly a significant improvement over the old yellow cultivar, City of Haarlem. And Hyacinth ‘Purple Star’ had extraordinary violet purple flowers fading to pale blue near to their base. Most dramatic was that these glowing flowers were surrounding a near black central stem.
My search for new Narcissus varieties to add to my planting pallet lead to nothing on the day. Two stalwarts were, however, confirmed as indispensable. Narcissus ‘February Gold’ is such a fresh, clear yellow that it stands out. It usually flowers earlier than its name suggests, but much depends upon the weather. This year, being so mild, it was flowering in my own garden from Christmas through to the end of February. Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ is a compact and also early flowering variety. Scattered through a mixed perennial border it bring early season colour. At the Keukenhof they tend to plant it in large masses which are certainly eye-catching but deprive it of its neat elegance.
For anyone visiting the Netherlands in spring the Keukenhof is certainly something to see. You will not want to grow the bulbs in your own gardens in the sort of mass plantings you will see there, but there is a great deal to see and become inspired.