Bulbs all blooming in mass

DaveKarn@aol.com DaveKarn@aol.com
Sun, 02 Apr 2006 11:45:09 PDT
In a message dated 4/2/2006 9:19:39 AM Pacific Standard Time, 
msittner@mcn.org writes:

Mary Sue ~
Bill [Dijk] brought with him a number of CDs picturing the bulb show he had 
attended in the Netherlands and one of the famous garden Keukenhof. I've 
never visited it and found it interesting how they design and plant it fresh every 
year and how many people visit it for the few months every year it is in 
bloom (this year 23 March until 19 May). Bill said that the season was delayed 
this year so although there were some things in bloom, the masses of bulbs in 
bloom were yet to come.

The Keukenhof is to those who truly appreciate "bulbous plants" what Mecca is 
to certain religions -- the one place on Earth that must be visited before 
one is placed in the Earth.  This jaw-dropping display of spring-flowering bulbs 
(the display garden of the Dutch bulb industry) is almost difficult to 
comprehend!  It absolutely demands a visit of several days just to see it all.  One 
simply has to just quietly sit in one place and let the beauty of the place 
sink in.  
Bill's CD of Keukenhof shows a solid mass of flowers in bloom, all at the 
same time and all perfect. So how do they do that?  Is rain different over there? 
Is there no wind? And how can you get flowers all to open the same day so 
they will all be blooming together? 
Timing and clone selection.  Of course, the cold weather in The Netherlands 
at that time of the year helps to preserve the flowers in bloom so the seasons 
tend to blend and merge with one another, coinciding with midseason, or a bit 
either side.  Even in the cold of an Oregon Spring, spared hail, daffodils can 
last three to four weeks in bloom.  They're, literally, growing and blooming 
in a refrigerator!

The entire garden is replanted each Fall.  After the Spring show is over, the 
bulbs in the beds are dug and the soil worked over and prepped for replanting 
in the Fall.  It's a mind-boggling effort.  Each of the bulb growers in The 
Netherlands can lease a space in the garden to plant with the bulbs their 
business grows to display their product.  I would imagine, however, that it is done 
according to some theme.
Bill says they are planted so densely they hold each other up and he's not 
sure that they get heavy rain. I wonder if they have ever have hail (which in my 
experience leaves the leaves and flowers marked unattractively.)
The last time I was in Holland, I was never so cold in my life!  I was 
wearing virtually every stitch of clothing I had packed and was still shivering 
during visits to the bulb grower's fields.  The wind was so strong it was blowing 
the rain and sleet horizontally across the landscape -- too strong for even 
the modest protection of an umbrella!  If it weren't for the warm, welcoming 
kitchens in the houses of the growers and cups and cups of coffee, I'd probably 
still be there waiting to thaw out.

The Keukenhof is set in a grove of widely spaced ancient beech trees and is 
surrounded with an additional plantings to cut the wind.  However, Bill is 
right when he says that the close planting is also responsible for both the effect 
and the ability of the plantings to withstand some wind.  Thus, the plantings 
in the park itself are sheltered from the major blasts.  They also have 
glasshouses with exhibits.  These are not to be missed either!!  They contain 
bulbous plants, e.g., lilium, that are blooming out of season and even massive 
displays of things like tulip.  I recall one mind-bending display of hippeastrum 
that had me madly scribbling in my checkbook!!  The business-minded Dutch often 
man their displays and are only too accommodating if one chooses to buy bulbs.

My husband says that those pictures for the CD could have been taken over 
many years on perfect days. I did see this disclaimer on the web site:  
"Flowering in the park depends on the weather conditions."
It's Spring weather and no one that I know of (I'm not up on the latest . . 
.) can perfectly control the weather!  If you're going to sell something and 
use photos to do that, there is no question but what one selects only the best 
of them to make the point.  However, be that it as it may, and as good as the 
photos are, the real thing experienced in person (even on a rainy day) just 
cannot be surpassed by a mere photo!  Think fragrance -- hundreds of square feet 
of hyacinth, for example, and you'll understand the admonition to take some of 
your money "and buy hyacinth for the soul."  Do remember to bring several of 
the largest digifoto chips with you -- you'll fill them to capacity in no time 
at all and your photos will be as good!!!  I've been several times and 
wouldn't hesitate in a minute to go again -- and I hate flying nowadays, as the 
"only way to fly" is but a distant memory in this day of cattle-car class . . . 

With the rise in fuel prices, one can no longer fly business class for the 
price of discounted coach (OK, so I used some frequent flyer miles -- back when 
they still had some value!!)  On the other hand, you would be well advised to 
do whatever it takes to experience The Netherlands during Spring-blooming 
season at least once in your life.  Not only is there The Keukenhof, but the 
fields of the growers and all of the interesting and historical sights in a country 
with a long heritage, plus, there is the world's best Gouda cheese and beer 
to eat and drink yourself silly with!!

The web site has a great of deal of background information, 
although it is unfortunate that it doesn't include many photographs of the 
displays themselves.  Google Keukenhof and there is presented a range of options 
that I didn't fully explore.

All best,
Dave Karnstedt
Cascade daffodils
Silverton, Oregon, USA
Mediterranean climate -- cold and wet Winters, hot and dry Summers.

More information about the pbs mailing list