Clusius not only planted his bulbs in his garden but also in the surrounding land, and the amazing bulb fields were born.
The Dutch went crazy for the flower, with a period known as ‘Tulipmania’ in the 1630s when some varieties could cost more than a house in Amsterdam.
During the Dutch famine of 1944-45 people experimented with eating tulip bulbs, frying them like onions and grinding them into flour.
Today tulips are a major part of Holland’s export trade, with billions cultivated and sold worldwide each year. They’re an even bigger part of the tourist industry, drawing in the crowds to ogle over their splendour in spring.
No trip to see them would be complete without a visit to Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, south-west of Amsterdam. The 32 hectare gardens are only open for the three months of the year when the flowers are in bloom. About seven million flowers that is, ranging from tulips, narcissi and hyacinths to orchids in the exhibition halls. The colours are dazzling, the fragrance takes my breath away and it feels like I’ve stepped into a fantasy. Swans and ducks glide over the lakes, stalls sell ice cream piled with strawberries, and women dressed in traditional costume of caps and clogs usher me into this flowering wonderland.
You could spend the whole day here, taking in the shaded glades and quirky statues as well as the odd maze and windmill.
As the day rolls on and I realise I’ve taken almost 100 photos, I’m in need of sustenance.
The Dutch are well known for their baking and the apple pie at one of the restaurants is the one of the most delicious things I’ve tasted – gooey apple and cinnamon in custard oozing from warm, buttery pastry.
The coffee is also one of the strongest I’ve ever drunk – a much-needed caffeine kick for more exploring.
Although the garden is another world, it’s not a secluded one. Millions of visitors enter the gates every year, and as the day draws on finding a seat under a tree relies on tactical manoeuvres. I feel guilty as I pretend not see some elderly people dodder past, but it’s been a long day, my camera and I are exhausted, and sitting under a flowering cherry tree, I’m happy to soak up nature at its cultivated best.
On the tulip trail
Bolenstreek (bulb district)
If you want to see vast fields of colour, rent a bike and explore the 60km-region between Haarlem and Sassenheim (near Leiden). Route maps can be purchased from the Tourist Information Office in Lisse.
The daily flower auction here sees millions of plants go under the hammer all under one roof. The best time to visit is between 7.30am and 9am, before things heat up. See vba-aalsmeer.nl
Take in the history of the tulip and purchase some quality souvenirs at this quirky museum in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam.
If the weather doesn’t co-operate, get your flower fix from the still-life paintings by Dutch artists such as Van Gogh at this museum of art. See rijksmuseum.nl
» Janine Jorgensen travelled with Door2Tour.