Keukenhof gardens were becoming very crowded yesterday morning so we left to take Zoly for a run in the forest. He’d been so good and well-behaved in the garden, it was lovely to see him running around getting excited with sticks and smells. After our walk we returned to our hotel for lunch and then a snooze – well for Mike and Zoly at least. I had a few matters to attend to on email. Once that was done I left the sleeping beauties to it and walked round the corner to visit the Black Tulip Museum in the centre of Lisse.
The museum is not very large, but it does tell the story of the tulip and has a lovely collection of botanical drawings and prints of spring bulbs. There was also a film about the discovery and spread of the tulip bulb, some ceramic tulip holders and a rather nice collection of glass hyacinth bulb holders. It was a pleasant enough place to while away a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.
After the museum I collected Mike and Zoly so that we could go back to the gardens. It was about 5.30pm and we hoped that Keukenhof would be starting to quiet down. It was still very busy, but the crowds were mostly drifting towards the exits. It definitely seemed like we were moving against the tide when thousands of people were heading in the opposite direction to us as we wandered back into the gardens. Zoly was enjoying his return visit back to the gardens very much – he spent lots of time Hoovering up the left-over bits of waffle, ice cream, strawberries and pastries dropped by the departing hoards.
Daffodils glowing in the evening sunshine
Seeing Keukenhof in a whole different light
We had definitely made the right decision to return to the gardens later; not just because they were quieter, but also because the evening light made the flowers and fountains look so lovely. The sun hanging lower in the sky created the most beautiful backlit effect on many of the flowers. Long shadows were cast on the pathways and lawns and the warmth of the spring sunshine helped release incredible scents from the hyacinths and narcissi – the whole experience was wonderfully intoxicating.
An alternative kind of bedding
With the crowds thinning we were able to explore the smaller demonstration gardens that we had avoided earlier in the day. The ‘inspiration gardens’ were more contemporary and intended to show off flowers in a more modern setting. I think it would be fair to say that Mike is not a great fan of the more ‘conceptual’ garden. The sight of bulbs growing out of old metal bed frames, or plastic Miffy the rabbits or bits of smashed up Delft is just the sort of thing to send him into his Catherine Tate ‘Nan’ character – “What a load of old sh*t!”. Fortunately, the conceptual gardens were fairly limited and so I was soon able to distract Mike’s attention with something much more to his liking: some big fountains that changed and danced in the evening light.
Mike loves a good fountain
The whole of Keukenhoff is landscaped with beautiful water features – rills, canals and gurgling streams then huge jetting fountains and waterfalls. Nothing is ever far from the sound of water, which is always a lovely addition to any garden. However, for men of a certain age, this abundance of flowing water also has its downsides! At least in Keukenhoff you’re never far from a toilet either! Meanwhile, Zoly seemed perfectly happy leaving his mark on every corner, every bed of tulips and daffodils and any tree that he could get near. It’s fortunate that the Netherlands has such an extensive flood defenses and drains.
Mike was determined to get Zoly onto the stepping-stones that crossed part of the lake, (they were actually made of wood, but that doesn’t have the same ring). I’m not entirely sure what Zoly thought I of this, but he seemed happy enough to pose for photos mid way. He was distracted by a passing duck, so a tight grip on the lead was required – although a shot of Mike going head first into the lake following Zoly with a duck in his mouth would have been priceless.
Don’t be surprised if these two don’t turn up in next year’s Keukenhof marketing material
We have been so lucky with the beautiful spring sunshine for our visit to Keukenhof, it made the gardens appear even more magical. Seeing the variety of colours and scents is quite unreal. I’m sure that I’ll wake up in a few days and think ‘was that real?’ If you like spring bulbs as much as I do, then I’d certainly recommend a trip to come here at least once, and if you have a dog – bring them along too!