Keukenhof – A wonderful tulip garden rich in history

April 7, 2015

All garden lovers have heard of Keukenhof, the famous flower attraction in Holland. This would lead you to believe that it has been around for centuries – yet Keukenhof as we know it today, was only established in 1949.

The annual display of 7 million flowers including tulips, hyacinth, daffodils, lilies and orchids will take place from 20 March to 17 May 2015.

Keukenhof has a rich history; in the 15th Century Countess Jacoba van Beieren was the owner of the area we know today as Keukenhof. At that time the area was untouched and used only for hunting and to gather herbs for the castle’s kitchen, which is where the name Keukenhof originates. Jacoba van Beieren was born in 1401 and died in 1436. During her brief but colourful lifetime she married four times, spent a few years in prison and lived in exile in England for some time. In 1433, she was forced to abdicate from her position and withdrew from public life.  Finally at the age of just 35, she died of tuberculosis in Castle Teylingen, not far from Keukenhof.

Following the death of Countess Jacoba van Beieren in 1436, the large Keukenhof estate passed through the hands of several wealthy merchant families, including Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt. They invited the landscape architects Zocher, who were also responsible for the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, to design a garden around their castle. The English landscape garden they created in 1857 still forms the basis for the park today.

Today, close to the Japanese garden at Keukenhof (and providing a prime viewing platform for the nearby tulip fields) sits Keukenhof’s very own windmill. The windmill is more than a century old. It was built in 1892 over 200 kms away in Groningen and was originally used to pump water out of a polder. In 1957, Holland-America cruise line bought the mill and donated it to Keukenhof.

In 1949, Keukenhof began its annual flower display which grew into the experience we know today. It originally began as an initiative on the part of ten flower bulb growers and exporters who created a showcase for the flower industry. In 1949, they opted for an ideal location: the gardens around Keukenhof castle. Today Keukenhof has a hundred flower bulb growers supplying bulbs to the park and five hundred flower growers participating in the flower shows. Nearly fifty million people have visited the park since it first opened.

Many visitors go to Keukenhof to see tulips and Keukenhof gives the tulip the centre stage it deserves. The indoor Willem-Alexander Pavilion is always full of tulips in bloom. Have you ever wanted to know more about the origin of the tulip? New for 2015 is the Tulpomania (Tulipmania) exhibition in the Juliana Pavilion which shows the history of the tulip, 17th Century tulip mania and today’s tulip as a contemporary icon. The renovated Historic Garden contains extra information about the origin of the tulip for the history buffs among you. In the nearby city of Haarlem (which played a major role in the 17th Century tulip trade), the Tulpomania tour continues.   See works from the 17th Century Golden Age in the Frans Hals museum and taste beer brewed from a 17th Century recipe at the Jopenkerk brewery.

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