Tulips and the Bulb Region
Colourful bulb fields, Keukenhof and the tulip; for many people, these compelling images captivate the essence of Holland. In springtime, the entireáBulb regionáresembles one huge colourful blanket of flowers, a feast for the eye for local residents and visitors alike.
The first tulips in the Netherlands
It all began in the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden. A major trend at European universities in the 16th century was the gathering of medicinal and toxic plants and herbs in a special garden. Such collections served as reference material for the medical students.
The university city of Leiden was no exception, and appointed the most famous botanist of the time, Carolus Clusius, to establish the Hortus botanicus. Clusius was an avid collector of rare and exotic plants. During his time as the court botanist in Vienna, he received seeds and bulbs from a former imperial ambassador to the Turkish court. When Clusius arrived in Leiden, he brought the tulip with him to the Netherlands.
More about Hortus Botanicus, Leiden
This colourful plant was initially extremely rare in the Netherlands, and became a sought-after product among its most affluent citizens. As the tulip grew in popularity, growers struggled to keep up with demand and the price of bulbs soared. The tulip became a status symbol. The rarer the tulip variety, the higher the price. Fortunes were paid for a single tulip bulb. A rare bulb could cost as much as a house. Tulip mania reached its peak in 1637, after which the market in tulip bulbs crashed.
Although prices plummeted, the tulip remained a sought-after product, and the burgeoning bulb-growing industry in Holland developed. Initially centred around Haarlem, the industry extended further south when in the 19th century the sandy dunes around Lisse and Hillegom were excavated and the soil proved ideal for bulb cultivation. This region and its outstretched flower fields are at their most colourful in spring. TheáBulb regionálends itself beautifully to exploring by bicycle.
Museum De Zwarte Tulp in Lisse showcases the history of theáBulb region and the bulb-growing industry. This museum is housed in a former bulb shed.
More about Museum De Zwarte Tulp, Lisse
Keukenhof is arguably the most famous attraction in the Bulb region. With more than 7 million flowers, the spring gardens of Keukenhof paint a colourful scene that no photographer can resist. These gardens attract thousands of visitors a day from all corners of the world. Keukenhof is open daily from 21 March until 20 May 2013 inclusive.
More about Keukenhof, Lisse