A Blooming Delight

The air is redolent with the scent of hyacinths

by Jean & Peter Richards

A Joseph’s Coat quilt is blooming in Holland. Swaths of daffodil and hyacinth will be followed by tulip this week in the fields around Lisse where spring is celebrated in all its colorful glory at the Keukenhof Gardens little more than five hours drive north of Paris.

Each year the growers whose surrounding fields produce the Dutch bulbs supply the 15th century estate of Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria with seven million of their best for what can only be termed the prettiest trade show anywhere — almost 80 acres of garden open only for the two months of flowering.

Keufkenhof Gardens

It is a magnificent show rich in color, information and sheer pleasure.

One need not be a gardener to appreciate the river of grape hyacinth, the winding beds of daffodil, the masses of hyacinth along the waterside on which 12 leased swans glide and the over four million tulips coming into bloom. Those who want to know more will have an array of events from which to choose: ever- changing shows in the pavilions, lectures on growing and demonstrations of arranging. Those who want to buy will be spoilt for choice.


As beautiful as the gardens are, we enjoyed even more driving the Bollenstreek Route to see the plants in the fields. The route is well marked by dark blue and white sexagonal signs, but roadworks can interfere and detours can be confusing. The road from Noordwijkerhout to Lisse was the most beautiful with field after field carpeted in golden daffodil or interlaced with blue, pink and white hyacinth whose scent permeated the air. Tulips gave just a hint of color to come as their buds opened.

The bulbs in the fields may be cut at the peak of their flowering to produce healthy bulbs for future planting. All the bulbs in Keukenhof Garden will be dug up after it closes and a new garden planted in September. Every year is different. This year the theme is “Germany, Nation of Philosophers and Poets.” Ten thousands bulbs have been used to create a blooming Brandenburg Gate.

The 62nd edition of the garden closes May 20th. The entrance fee is 14.50€. Parking in the adjacent field is 6€. The garden is handicap accessible, easy to see and replete with amenities. We spent a few hours. Others spend days. The fields can also be seen by bicycling well kempt paths or by touring in an electric boat.

Copyright © 2011 Jean and Peter Richards


About oldmainetravelers

The Old Maine Travelers are Peter and Jean Richards, who met more than a half century ago covering President John F. Kennedy on what would become his last trip to Boston.  They worked for many years as wire service and newspaper reporters and editors.  Peter did a nightly television show on WGBH, Boston, before he went into government in the administration of John V. Lindsay, mayor of New York City. After they moved to their brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Jean did a spell on Madison Avenue in the real “Mad Men” days and later became public relations officer at Chase Manhattan Bank.  Since 1973 they have worked together first as owners and publishers of a group of award-winning newspapers in Dutchess County, N.Y., and then as antiques dealers.  Now they are old and live on the coast of Maine and in the Southwest of France when not traveling further afield. In the red barn by their house in Damariscotta, Maine, they tend an antique shop specializing in 18th and 19th century furniture, metalwork and accessories, buying objects they know about and like and selling them from May to October to delightful people of obvious discernment and taste. In France, they live in an old stone house in the shadows of the remaining towers of an unfinished 17th century church and above Roman drains in a town along a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. They love it — for its authenticity and abundant boulangeries.  The rest of the time they travel the world together seeing the sights, seeking out museums, stumbling into interesting conversations, savoring local specialties and otherwise bumbling along in their own style. For years they have sent article-length postcards to family, friends, fellow travelers and some media. Many of these will now be posted here.
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