After close to an hour on the road, our tour bus filled with myself and 26 other travelers arrived and the legendary Keukenhof Gardens. It was a good sign when our guide suggested to the bus driver to take a little spin around the bulb fields. As the intoxicating aroma of hyacinths filled the cabin we were awed by the rainbow of colors which stretched for miles. There were millions of bulbs covering flat fields, it was a unique and stunning sight.
We had a feeling the bulb display here in Holland was going to be spectacular, but never could have imagined the grandeur we were about to see.
Once inside, the gardens were beyond belief. I’ve been lucky enough to see some the greatest landscapes in the world, and Keukenhof is second to none.
Working my way along the edge of a small stream on the outskirts of the display trying to get just the right angle on those amazing bulb fields, I ran into Michelle Nawaz of New York City. She was working on taking the perfect selfie, using a tapestry of bulbs as her background. She hadn’t seen much of the garden yet, but when she turned to look at the huge display behind her she said, “it’s beautiful, the colors are breathtaking.”
Turning back to Kuekenhof, the afternoon light danced around the flowers, sometimes filtered through the blooms of spring blooming trees, other times forming long shadows which changed as the the clouds drifted through, pushed along by a soft breeze.
The garden is overwhelming as each bed offers another magical combination. Deep orange fringe tulips are set off by dark blue grape hyacinths and tiny white flowers make the perfect background for small purple fritillaria blooms.
While standing on a little bridge, a French couple walked hand in hand examining bright yellow daffodils. As they walked up to me, I showed them the photo I’d just made of them. For a second there was an uncomfortable moment, not knowing why I handed them the camera, thinking I wanted them to take a picture of me. “It’s you,” I said, and when they looked at the screen, both smiled, then laughed and said, “merci.”
There were unimaginably long beds, hundreds of yards long with repeating patterns of three of four different bulbs in full bloom and other beds containing varieties which waited patiently to become the stars of the garden.
One small, brilliant yellow daffodil bravely stood among a huge bed of blue hyacinths. I wondered if it was a survivor from last year’s show. Keukenhof is only open for eight short weeks, opening in March and closing in May. The rest of the time is spent preparing the nearly 80 acres for the next show.
Inside a building draped with white cloth are a multitude of bulbs and plants in full bloom. New introductions of tulips and just about anything else you can imagine are showcased. The colors are spellbinding and the fragrances of lilacs and others are sweet relief from a long winter.
There’s a cool place called the selfie garden. All you have to do is take a picture in one of the many oblong mirrors. Old people (like me) are confused and forced to ask the young exactly how to take the right photo. The youngsters were struggling themselves, but figured it out quicker than the oldsters and were more than happy to fill them in for the proper technique.
As the sun slowly slipped lower, the flower combinations became even more beautiful. Walking back to the bus, I turned back to see three or four drifts of tulips backlit and framed with a flowering crabapple.
After taking the photo, I put the camera down. Standing there looking at the scene all I could do was smile. It was one of those moments when you want to pinch yourself, “is this really happening,” I though to myself.
I can check Keukenhof off the garden bucket list, but hope to return again to spend a couple days exploring this special place instead of a couple hours.
The bus ride back to the cruise ship was spent in the afterglow of an experience I’ll never forget.
(Top image: The Keukenhof Gardens. Doug Oster photos)