Stories that Uplift the Spirit and Broaden the Mind

A Tulip by Any Other Name

Keukenhof Park in the Netherlands offers a glorious Easter vision for millions.

Tulips are one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, making them a symbol of rebirth. What better time to revel in their beauty than Easter?

Keukenhof Park in the Netherlands is one of the world’s largest flower gardens, with seven million flowering bulbs on nearly eighty acres of land in the “Dune and Bulb” region southwest of Amsterdam. Keukenhof, which translates from Dutch as “Kitchen Garden,” is commonly known as the Garden of Europe. Although famous for its tulips, the park also features roses, lilies, carnations, daffodils, irises, and hyacinths. With live music in a central gazebo and sculptures scattered throughout the grounds, the park offers a feast for the eyes and the soul. I was extremely lucky to find myself in the Netherlands during the spring bloom, traveling on technology business but finding time to connect with nature on a day off.



The tulip, which is in the same family as the onion and lily, derives its name from the Persian word for turban because of the flower’s shape when in full bloom. Tulips commonly represent “perfect love,” another reason to celebrate them on this Easter day.

Tulips were introduced to the Netherlands from Turkey in the late 16th century, but those aren’t the tulips we know today. Sometime after their introduction from Turkey, a mosaic virus infected the crops and changed them forever, making their petals brighter and more interesting. Today, there are more than 3,000 varieties, and it felt like most of them were on display at Keukenhof.




Heavy clouds drizzled during much of the afternoon outing, but they were no match for the brilliant colors all around me. I’m not much of a flower guy, though I do occasionally buy them for Beth. However, the variety was so overwhelming that I wandered the grounds for several hours, reading small placards and shooting photos that can’t capture the majesty on display.

I found beauty, too, in a most unexpected place. Sitting on a wooden bench, under gray skies and a dripping umbrella, was an elderly couple. Holding hands, they silently soaked in the splendor around them. As much as I appreciated the beauty in bloom around me, I think I appreciated the beautiful human moment more. I couldn’t help being that “annoying American tourist” as I stopped to chat with them. Visiting Keukenhof was an annual pilgrimage for them, a tradition they had been observing for more than thirty years. A renewal for them and their marriage.

Much like the Tournament of Roses was established by real estate professionals to show east coast Americans that Southern California weather was so nice it was possible to host a floral parade on New Year’s Day, Keukenhof was created by bulb growers to promote the flower export business. When it opened to the public in 1950, Keukenhof hosted 200,000 visitors, but the park now sees more than 1.5 million visitors each year during the brief but brilliant 8-week season.


The planning is quite remarkable. Each year, dozens of gardeners plant millions of bulbs three layers deep. Why? Because the average tulip bloom lasts only three weeks, but the park targets an 8-week spring season open to the public. The top bulb blooms first, then as its bloom withers, the slightly deeper bulb blooms for its own 3-week presentation. Finally, the deepest bulb blooms to complete the cycle and the season. Planting seven million bulbs takes about two months, from early October to early December. This is all part of the backstage magic, however, leaving visitors free to enjoy the guaranteed floral spectacle.


Just beyond the park, fields of tulips ready for harvest and export stretch almost as far as the eye can see. It’s impossible to guess how many millions of bulbs have bloomed or how many hours it took to plant them.


As I looked at the flowers – millions of them – I thought about that elderly Dutch couple holding hands. They seemed to know a universal truth. I looked at row after row, endless potential for perfect love, and tried to carry it home with me so I could share it with you. Happy Easter.


Keukenhof will be open from March 23 until May 14, 2023.
Located near the coast, about halfway between Amsterdam and the Hague, Keukenhof is easy to get to via one of the countless buses leaving regularly from Schiphol Airport.
Tickets are € 21.50 for adults (€ 19.00 if ordered online) and € 9.00 for children 4-17 years old. Kids under 4 are free.

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