It was a sunny Tuesday evening. There were waves of wind rolling through the feverish red tulip fields. All the tulips seemed to point their heads in the same direction: that of the big hall at the end of the lane. There were chills running down my spine of pure excitement. In less than an hour I would walk into that hall and dive behind the scenes of the flower parade only to come out again three days later. I had a hunch, an idea, of the amazing creations I would find there, but wasn’t prepared for the things I would see.
A new home in keukenhof area
Last years I’ve been going through the area around Keukenhof by bike and each year I discovered new places, hidden treasures. I’ve never been in this hall or behind the scenes of the Flower Parade in the Keukenhof area. As soon as I enter the building, my jaw drops and my eyes open wide. Spread throughout the hall are enormous objects made out of the kind of foam you want to pinch your finger in to see if it is as fluffy as it looks like. All kinds of building constructions are made around it so the volunteers are able to reach the higher parts easier. There are crates full of hyacinths, orchids, daffodils and tulips and boxes full of staples are waiting to be used. Above all there are volunteers walking around everywhere and there is music and a place to sit and have a drink. Even though this hall is huge, all these things add up to a relaxed atmosphere and give a very homey feeling.
Who is the flower parade winner?
But, don’t let appearances fool you. There’s a lot to be done. While I’m touring my English, Dutch and Russian (?!)- speaking groups around and tell them about the history and the making of this 69th edition of the 2016 Flower Parade Bollenstreek, there is a competition going on. All the floats and flower arrangements and decorations have to be done before Friday morning. The volunteers, all from different associations and clubs in the area, work day and night to finish their project. Every part of the float has to be perfect, because besides fun, every team also hopes to win the first prize. So, the teams are definitely under pressure, which can be sensed in the air, especially Thursday evening, when the deadline comes closer.
A Shower for the flowers of the parade
On Friday everything is done, all construction is gone, everything is cleaned and the last preparations for the Flower Parade are being made. The air is literaly being cleared, as fire men spray the floats with water to freshen up the flowers. Hopefully all the flowers keep their fresh look for the next few days. That very evening the floats pass through Noordwijkerhout, on Saturday morning they leave Noordwijk and the Flower Parade finishes in Haarlem, where all the floats can be admired one last time in the city center of Haarlem on Sunday.
Till next year. A new edition , a new episode of behind the scenes of the flower parade.
A big thanks to all the volunteers for having given me the opportunity to enjoy and become not just a tulip maniac and a Keukenhof area fan, but also a Flower Parade (over)enthusiast.
On my tours & events through the area around Keukenhof I have more than enough time to be spotting tulip fields. As a bike and bulb flower fan all flower fields in the surroundings of the Keukenhof just make me extremely happy. The daffodils are like sun beams, with their rays of yellow and gold they warm the land and my heart. The hyacinths in all shades of white, pink and purple fill the air with their perfumes. I know that there are many of you who love the tulip fields most, so that will be my main focus in this series of posts.
In the first weekend of true spring in the Netherlands, on Saturday 2 April, I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of these daffodil & hyacinth field when suddenly, in front of my eyes, appeared this field of tulips.
The tulips are only just waking up and peaking their heads from between their leaves. Spotting a tulip field at this time that’s worth mentioning is quite difficult. I was really happy to find this early blooming tulips, just a bike ride away from Voorhout station.
There are always a couple of tulips which stand out from the rest because of their colours or shapes. I myself love this tulip.
Do you know how the name of these tulips?
Ask anyone where the Keukenhof is located and they tell you it’s close to Amsterdam (35km to be precise). Some will tell you it’s situated between Leiden and Haarlem and others can even tell you the name of the town: Lisse. Only few will give you the name of the Keukenhof area. That’s a pity, because it’s where the story of tulips and bulb flowers starts.
A barber in the keukenhof area
Once upon a time, when the Keukenhof flower garden didn’t exist yet, a little tulip bulb was sold for millions of guilders. It was the start of the tulip mania and made the bulb flower industry come to bloom. Before 1634 only professional growers produced bulbs. When the people in the Keukenhof region, the area between Leiden and Haarlem found out they could make more money selling flower bulbs than baking bread or cutting hair, they soon changed their profession and became a bulb grower.
The professionals knew what was needed to sell a good bulb. You had to look at the flower blooming from the bulb, cut it at the right time, so the bulb could grow even further. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the flowers that would come out next year. Importers from other countries knew this as well and came to check on the flowers – mainly the tulips, but also the other bulb flowers such as hyacinths and daffodils- and purchase the best bulbs. The less professional just sold the bulbs, of which some hadn’t even come to bloom yet.
It wasn’t just the tulip that did well. Other bulb flowers also became popular. In the 18th century, the hyacinth bulbs became subject of hysteria thanks to the mistress of the French king Louis XV who wanted hyacinths in her garden.
What’s in a name?
Now, after this story, do you have any idea what’s the name of the Keukenhof area?
Let me tell you this: It’s not called tulip region, because it’s not only tulips that are grown here. It’s not called flower region, because the primary product that is and was sold in the region between Leiden and Haarlem is not the flower blooming from the bulb, but the flower bulb. And that is the reason why the area around the Keukenhof, west from Leiden and west from Haarlem is called ….. ( Well, do you know now?)
When I’m at a fair or event people can test their knowledge on Dutch culture & celebrations with Verita’s Visit’s mini-challenge. One of the multiple choice questions is how the area around the Keukenhof is called. If you ever get a chance to do the mini challenge and get this question, keep in mind that it all started with a bulb.