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.