The gardens of Keukenhof are one of the floral wonders of the world, and nothing can quite convey their exhilarating beauty. Located a little less than an hour from Amsterdam, they are laid out on the estate of Keukenhof Castle, which was built in 1641 and later surrounded by a vast park in the English landscape style in 1857. The genesis of the spring extravaganza here began in 1949, when a group of 20 leading flower-bulb growers and exporters devised a plan to use the estate as a showcase. The park debuted in 1950 and was an instant success. The 2018 season was the 69th edition of Keukenhof, with “Romance in Flowers” as its theme.
Traveling to the gardens very early on a recent April morning to avoid the crowds, I arrived just when the gates opened. The air was filled with the delicate, slightly lemony perfume of the tens of thousands of tulips planted here. If the vast, vivid bands of tulips attested to the passion that the Dutch have had for these flower since they arrived in the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, the garden I liked best was the blue-and-white-themed one of tulips, forget-me-nots and hyacinths, which was designed as a homage to Delftware, the blue-and-white ceramics that were first produced during the 17th century in imitation of Chinese porcelain. Not only were they arrestingly beautiful, but they were also an embodiment of the perennial Dutch ability to absorb and domesticate the best of other cultures and countries.
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