When springtime arrives in the Dutch town of Lisse, so do the vibrant blooms of over 7 million bulbs, masterfully placed along twisting pathways and serene ponds.
The star of the Dutch Golden Age, the tulip has been an integral part of Holland’s culture since the 16th century. It seems only fitting that the country would play host to a 79-acre landscape paradise. Occupying 15th-century hunting grounds with the eponymous 17th-century country house-turned-castle, the old Keukenhof gardens had long provided cooking herbs for the manor, hence the name referencing “kitchen” (“keuken” in Dutch).
Keukenhof’s modern gardens were designed in 1949 by father and son landscape architects Louis Paul and Jan Davis Zocher to act as a showcase for growers of The Netherland’s main export: flowers. With a vast, exciting assortment of hybrid blooms hitting the market for the first time, the idea for Keukenhof Gardens was born. A father and son design team of Louis Paul and Jan Davis Zocher united several gardens in varying styles to display the vast, exciting assortment of Holland’s new hybrid blooms set to flood markets for the first time.
Ever since, from March through May, beds of tulips, crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils, and more have run like rivers beneath its trees. Each of the bulb flower varieties that paint the Keukenhof landscape has its own peak blooming time: crocuses are the first ones to appear, followed by vibrant daffodils, fragrant hyacinths and finally, the tulips which are at their best around mid-April.
Like many of the world’s horticultural giants, visitors return year after year to see Keukenhof’s annual theme executed in living blooms; others return for perennial joys like the floating nature garden, the country Japanese garden, or the enclosed historical garden that displays the blooms of rare, heirloom cultivars. Each of the six glass pavilions that dot the park hosts a show that revolves around one flower variety. The whisper boat, which is berthed near the historic mill, takes visitors on a tour around the bulb fields that frame the Keukenhof Gardens.