The colorful story of the world’s largest flower park
by Steven Marinot, Program Director, The Netherlands
Although it’s open only eight weeks each year, Keukenhof is the ideal setting to take in spring with all of your senses. Revel in endless waves of ethereal colors. Listen to tranquil birdsong. Savor the intoxicating aromas of millions of fragrant blossoms. A visit to the world’s largest flower park in full bloom is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Situated on nearly 80 acres of what were once 15th-century hunting grounds in Lisse, Holland, Keukenhof (literally, “kitchen garden”) earned its name when the area became a source of herbs and vegetables for the castle kitchen of Countess Jacoba van Beieren. In 1949, flower growers and exporters held the first outdoor flower exhibition here and it has been an annual event ever since.
Remarkably, the gardeners at Keukenhof hand plant some seven million flower bulbs in more than 1,600 varieties each year. In an intricately layered gardening process, crocuses are planted on top of early-blooming tulips atop late-blooming tulips. This way, the gardens are planned to remain full throughout the season—though sometimes nature has other things in mind.
Numbering 4.5 million, tulips clearly dominate at Keukenhof, but each year a changing array of other plant species also raise their petals to the sky—including daffodils, hyacinths, azaleas, rhododendron, dahlias, begonias, amaryllis, crocuses, and alstroemerias.
The show indoors
Specially designed pavilions showcase a stunning kaleidoscope of blossoms—from freesia, chrysanthemums, iris, and roses, to the more exotic orchids and bamboo. During the exhibition’s final week, Keukenhof unveils the world’s largest indoor display of lilies in 300 colorful varieties.
Trees are another important aspect of Keukenhof. Beech Lane, an avenue of beech trees dating to the 1840s, represents the legacy of German landscape architect J.D. Zocher. You might try to find your way through a hedge maze with ten-foot-high shrub walls or the 700-tree labyrinth.
Mother Nature isn’t the only artist at Keukenhof. A sculpture trail, windmill, sundials, and fountains add a human touch to the beauty of the surroundings.