When it’s Spring again I’ll bring again
Tulips from Amsterdam
With a heart that’s true I’ll give to you
Tulips from Amsterdam
(Song by Max Bygraves).
Tulips are my favorite flowers and despite the coronavirus, the tulip fields are again in full and glorious bloom along the protected side of the dunes along the North Sea in the northern part of The Netherlands in April. The Netherlands, meaning lower lands, is the official name for the country more popularly called Holland. That name refers to the eleventh century when the country was less than half its size and means “holt land’” or wood land. The modern country consists of 12 provinces. It is a small country but has two capitals. Amsterdam is the capital, but The Hague is the administrative seat of the country. 26 percent is below sea level and 17 percent is reclaimed land from the North Sea. Built three centuries ago, lots of windmills were used to keep that water out, but today they are very popular tourist attractions. Almost everywhere there is water, and many Dutch continue in the craft of restoring old boats.
I was born, raised, and educated here and grew up with flowers like all the Dutch do. There are flower stands and shops on multiple corners in every town and city. One does not visit friends without a small bunch of flowers rolled in cheap paper. No vase is necessary as everyone has vases ready for the flowers they receive. And even during lock-down in my home country, one can still buy flowers because they are considered essential.
One can drive, bike, or walk past miles and miles of flowers in a brilliant rainbow of colors. However, the world’s largest flower gardens, Keukenhof, was not allowed to open this year. At the time of writing this article, the almost 80-acre park of seven million planted flowers is closed. Director Bart Siemerink is not happy about it. At least the Dutch should have been allowed to come and roam the almost 10 miles of outside paths through the flowers. His staff had organized touch free entry gates and made all required social distancing plans. “After all, the government allows people to walk in most parks even during lock-down, so why not in the Keukenhof,” he lamented. Bart can only look to the future and the new goal is to make the 73rd Keukenhof in 2022 even more grand from the end of March till the end of May next year.
Next year promises to be a spectacular year as the expected 80% foreign visitors and 20% Dutch people can combine the famous park with a drive through the spectacular bulb fields, and they can also visit the Floriade Expo 2022. This horticultural exposition, covering 150 acres, takes place once every ten years.
Next year’s theme is “Growing Green Cities”, and the goal is to combine nature and cities. Forty countries, including the fascinating Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, plan to participate. Visitors can take a 2,800-foot cable car ride over parts of the park.
Dates are from April 14 to October 9, 2022 and two million visitors are expected from all over the world. Entrance tickets will be available in the autumn of this year. floriade.com/en.
The $18 million project is presently under construction near the city of Almere in Flevoland. This is an area that was reclaimed from the former Zuiderzee between 1959 and 1968. It was the final phase to develop this extension of the North Sea into agricultural land, lakes and cities that began with the impressive feature of building the 20-mile Afsluitdijk closure dike cutting off the Zuiderzee – later called the IJsselmeer – from the North Sea back in 1932. The six hundred buildings presently being built to serve as offices, displays and concessions during the exposition will later be transformed to homes when the Floriade closes in October 2022. They will be incorporated into a new city, aptly called “Hortus,” or garden in Latin.
The history of flowers in The Netherlands dates to the tulip that was originally a wildflower in Central Asia and the name derives from “turban.” In the sixteenth century Suleyman the Magnificent ordered the flowers to be cultivated in his palace gardens. Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq was the Dutch Ambassador in the Turkish capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul) and it is said that is where the Dutchman first glimpsed the extraordinary flower. The story varies on how the tulip made it to Holland, from stolen bulbs transported via Vienna in Austria to gifts of bulbs from the Emperor. The flower was expertly cultivated into multiple varieties by the Dutch and became such a success that some individual flowers sold for astronomical amounts of money. Tulips were traded on the Dutch Stock Market, exchanged for homes and business through the end of the Golden Age and the seventeenth century financial crash. Today the Dutch produce over four billion bulbs a year of which two billion are exported. Just over 50% are cut flowers.
Plan to combine it with visiting the sites in Holland. The city of Amsterdam and its canals are like a museum on its own and for those interested in cycling, there is no other cycle friendly country in the world with more designated paths, itineraries, directional signs, and special laws protecting them.
And last, but not least: It is too late in southwest Florida for tulips by the time you read this story, but if you go North soon and have potted tulips there, do not throw them out when the flowers fall off. Wait till the leaves turn yellowish brown, as the tulip bulbs will draw nutrition from these leaves. Then remove the bulbs from the pot and let them dry for a couple of weeks. Store them in a dry and dark cool corner. In fall they will be ready to plant and next spring you can enjoy them pushing out of the ground in all their glory. You might be able to enjoy the same bulbs for several years. Tulips definitely have a personality and if you do not believe me, put some cut tulips in a vase. They will always turn towards a natural light source.
If you turn the vase, your flowers will continue to follow and lean towards the sun again. Be sure to change the water often and drop in a copper penny for good measure. They will reward you with a few extra days of floral pleasure.
You can tell I like tulips! We cannot walk along the fields in Holland right now, but Holland will be ready for the visitors next year.
Ewout Rijk de Vries is a photographer and journalist who has lived full-time on Marco Island since 1984. He travels to the far-out corners of the world in search of the best photos and stories. He and his wife, Jill, also own America Travel Arrangements, Inc., a travel company on the island with clientele in six different countries. Ewout can be reached at email@example.com.