Early blooms in Keukenhof

I woke up bright and early, packed up my pannier, was ready for a day trip to see some tulips. I stopped to chat with a member of the hostel staff, and as he made me a coffee, he mentioned that there was a severe wind warning in the region for the day. According to him “the Dutch don’t generally fuss much about the weather, but this is storm-level winds.” He strongly recommended taking the bus to the tulip gardens, and I am glad I listened, as the wind was strong enough to stop me in my tracks as I walked to the train, having to lean into the wind to walk and seeing the bikes and patio furniture from cafes shattered on the streets.

While it was a little bit early in the season for the tulip fields to be in full colourful glory, the gardens and greenhouses at Keukenhof were spectacular. Each year, the staff take 10 months to prepare for the 2 month season, planting 7 million bulbs several layers deep, using a technique called lasagne planting. The earlier flowers like crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils are planted over top of the later bloomers, so the beds are always full of flowers.

So, now I am basically going to inundate you with a whole bunch of pictures of pretty flowers, scattered with some facts about tulips. Because it was early in the season, many of the beds were filled with crocuses and hyacinths. DSC_4635Some of the early tulips were popping out, looking stalwart and beautiful. DSC_4649Even though tulips seem very Dutch, they came from Turkey, back in the day. The word ‘tulip’ comes from the Persian word ‘tulipan’ meaning ‘turban’, which refers to the shape of the tulip bulb. Around 1550, the Sultan Suleiman II sent some tulip bulbs to an Australian Ambassador, who eventually passed them on to Dutchman Carolus Clusious who planted the first tulips in Holland. DSC_4653DSC_4755.jpgDSC_4789.jpgDSC_4756.jpgDSC_4781.jpgThe gardens were so beautifully curated: DSC_4688.jpgDSC_4674.jpgDSC_4693.jpgI climbed up into the windmill, and took this pic especially for pops, as the working mill has some pretty cool looking wooden parts!DSC_4696There was a cute Delft Blauw corner of the garden. DSC_4656  IMG_1045And the greenhouses were packed with hundreds of different types of tulips: DSC_4795.jpgApparently it takes 20 years to develop a new tulip. There is a database where you can see if any tulips have been named after you, and to my delight, there has been a tulip named “Jens Bang”, which is apparently a blood red game with aureolin edge and base. IMG_1081They had a special exhibit of orchids, which I think are the most elegant flowers in the world, so I spent a long time marvelling at these beautiful flowers.DSC_4699.jpgDSC_4740.jpgDSC_4707.jpgDSC_4737.jpgDon’t you hate it when you eat too many orchids you have to pop your jeans open? DSC_4727.jpgIn addition to the excellently curated blooms, there were some other strange creatures in the Keukenhof gardens. These guys had such character: DSC_4643And my fav, these three sister birds chilling (see Karen? I am slowly acquiring photos for the collection of “3s”…). DSC_4639And, of course, I have to end in a tulips + windmill selfie. IMG_1054


Remember, this is all part of my “Pedalling for Mental Health” challenge, where I am hoping to raise money for mental health research. If you are able to support this great charity, please donate here!

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Today’s distance: 9 miles/15km                                                        Total miles logged: 168 miles/270km

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