LISSE, Netherlands – As we’re driving toward Keukenhof, the sweet scent of hyacinths drifts through our bus of 26 travelers. Our tour guide thought we might like to see the growing fields filled with blooming bulbs. Yes, we would.
No one could believe the seemingly endless rows of flowers, the sights and smells. Think of driving through field after field of Iowa corn. Now substitute daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and any spring bloomer you can imagine. We all scrambled to get photos through the bus windows.
Keukenhof (www.keukenhof.nl/en/) might be the world’s greatest display of spring bulbs. It’s only open for eight short weeks, when the bulbs are at their peak.
Our guide pointed us in the right direction and told us to enjoy the bulbs. I worked my way around the perimeter of the garden, trying to get a better photo of the flower fields separated from the park by a narrow canal. Michelle Nawaz of New York City stood with her back to the fields as the afternoon light fell perfectly across her face. She meticulously positioned her phone for one amazing selfie.
“It’s beautiful,” she says, turning back toward the carpet of flowers. “The colors are breathtaking.”
Keukenhof is a gardener’s paradise, a place to spend at least one full day, although I wished I had longer.
Some beds are massed with the same flowers, others in stripes and patterns. When it’s hyacinths or other scented blooms, the fragrance is remarkable. Since there’s always a breeze in Holland, the scent of flowers was never far away.
Other beds offered intricate combinations of bulbs, all blooming in consort.
It’s the scale that astounds.
One bed that stretched for hundreds of yards had been planted with repeating patterns of white daffodils, pink hyacinths, white anemones and tulips. Behind them ran a parallel bed of orange tulips.
The garden is filled with more than 7 million flowering bulbs, including 800 kinds of tulips. The 80-acre park has been putting on the annual display since 1950.
There were about 10 of us looking over the gardens together, but I lost my traveling companions as I lagged behind, photographing everything in sight.
As the sun dipped lower, some bulbs took on a luminescence, lit from behind as the sun streamed through the trees.
Winnie Ritter of Monroeville, Pa., brought three of her daughters with her on the trip. “I’m so glad I got to see this,” said Ritter, 82. “I’m in heaven.”
As we stood in front of an impossibly long, curving bed of white and blue hyacinths set off by bright yellow daffodils, we noticed a thick row of unopened tulips.
They would put on a show for the next week’s visitors.