Tulips: A Colourful Dutch Treasure

May 28, 2015

Close your eyes for a moment and paint an iconic picture of Holland. Did you think of tulips? Stereotypical as it might seem, tulips really are an integral part of its life and culture.

Holland is renowned for its tulips and is often affectionately called the “flower shop of the world”.

Tulips were originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (historically referred to as the Turkish Empire) and imported into Holland in the 16th century. It is claimed that the first ‘Dutch’ tulips flowered in Leiden in 1594. As the Dutch Golden Age flourished, so did the popularity of these vibrant, goblet-shaped flowers and they became the focal point of many still life paintings.

The popularity of tulips increased so much, that in the 17th century, people even remortgaged their house just to get hold of some, as part of a craze called ‘Tulipomania’.  Tulips were a luxury item and became a status symbol. People were willing to pay huge sums of money for just a single bulb and the prices rose continually. Soon, tulip mania was gripping the country! The speculation in bulbs increased as people saw this as a quick and easy route to making their fortune. In 1636, stock exchanges were established to trade in bulbs and their future options. Despite attempts by the authorities to limit the craze, trade blossomed and people sold land, houses and valuable objects to invest in tulip bulbs!

The Dutch produce 4.32 billion tulip bulbs each year and 80% of tulip bulbs around the world are from Holland.

When and where can you catch Holland in full bloom?

  • The tulip season runs from mid-March to the end of May
  • In Lisse, not far from Amsterdam, you’ll find Keukenhof; the largest flower garden in the world with over 7 million flower bulbs
  • From late April to early May, the Tulip Festival is organized amongst the tulip fields in Noordoostpolder (Flevoland region, east of Amsterdam)
  • To discover Holland’s fascinating horticultural story, a visit to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, located in Jordaan, is a must
  • Fancy buying some tulips of your own? Holland’s best known floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt takes place on floating barges along the Singel canal. The great variety of flowers make it one of the most colorful places of Amsterdam
  • Head to the flower auction held in Aalsmeer, where 19 million flowers are sold in an area of almost one million square metres. Buyers haggle for the best prices, and the blooms are dispatched all over the globe within hours of being sold. The flowers are sold in a “Dutch auction” – as the clock ticks down, the price of the flowers goes down!

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