The Keukenhof, or kitchen garden, situated in Lisse (south west of Amsterdam) is a large park-like setting which showcases spring flowering bulbs. Each fall the garden beds are designed and literally millions of bulbs are planted. In mid March the park opens and over the next two months a vision of color unfolds. Trees blossom, azaleas and rhododendrons blooms and paths are lined on both sides with flowers as far as the eye can see. Indoor pavilions showcase different flowers and plants and provide a haven in inclement weather. There are special busses from Schiphol (as well as a few other towns) which go directly to the Keukenhof and they make traveling to this park a snap. Our visit to the Keukenhof on May 12th, just 4 days before the park closed its doors, coincided with the coldest weather during our trip yet. Windy, barely 50 degrees and with a bit of scattered rain we entered the park which was virtually empty.
During the next few hours we explored the park, marveled at the variety of flowers, the colors, and ducked into restaurants along the way to warm up with coffee and sample the Dutch apple pie. Because of the cool spring weather, the park had not even peaked yet. Azaleas were opening, late daffodils were about to open and even the late tulips had not bloomed yet, but oh, the other 5 million bulbs or so were glorious. Walking around, not encountering another soul, it felt if we had the park to ourselves. If you ever visit Holland in the spring, try to visit the Keukenhof for inspiration. All of the bulbs you see in the park represent the best bulbs you can purchase from the growers directly. They even have a wonderful little shop in the park and come fall your purchase will be delivered directly to your door straight from Holland, just in time for planting in your garden.
Back home I marveled at our garden. Perennials grew back in abundance, shrubs and trees had leafed out. Dutch and bearded irises were mostly done blooming, but some late bearded irises continue to bloom. Peonies, from the whitest white to dark red, bloom in abundance. The Japanese maple unfolded its fiery red leaves, contrasting with the bright yellow shrub Berberis thunbergii 'Aurea' or yellow barberry. Everywhere columbine blooms in white, blue or pink. Hostas, large and small, unfolded their leaves. Ferns poked their heads up out of the soil and gracefully unfurl their fiddleheads. Clematis vines cover trellises and arbors and the first flowers opened with many more to come in the months ahead. A few weeds needed pulling, but the heavy layer of mulch applied the month before smothered most weed seeds, making life a bit easier. Four small koi fish were bought and put in the pond. Adjusting to their new home they explore nooks and crannies, feeding off algae growing on the rocks. With a bit of patience these wet pets will soon accept food from my hand and they will steadily grow and become brightly flashing jewels in the pond. A full growing season lays ahead of me; forget the manicure, it’s time to get dirty.