It’s that time of year again…..the lambs are making their arrival, the buds on the trees are getting fatter by the day and are about to explode open with blossom and leaves, the last of the frost is losing it’s morning battle with the Sun and the spring flowers are well and truly coming in to bloom.
I especially love this time of year here in Holland. As you may already know, the Netherlands is the largest exporter of flowers in the world. That’s not to say that they grow everything here, no. They import, auction off and re-export to all four corners of the globe (can a globe have corners?) all sorts of flowers, plants and bulbs. But their home-grown speciality are of course tulips.
The tulip was introduced to the Netherlands in 1593 by horticulturalist Carolus Clusius at the then, newly established Botanical Gardens in Leiden. These tulips would eventually lead to the subsequent Tulip mania years later, and spawned what is today one of the Netherlands largest agricultural industries.
First to flower are the various varieties of narcissus. They are quickly followed by the hyacinths and then of course the tulips. There are various places the flowers are grown, but the most well known are is that of the Bollenstreek….an area of the provinces of North and South Holland, centred around Lisse and extending as far north as Den Helder. Lately, they have also begun to cultivate the tulip bulbs on the newly formed Flevopolder, near Almere and Lelystad.
From the ground, it’s so beautiful to see row upon row of flowers in all shades and colours. Aside from the Royal gardens of Keukenhof, in some areas of the Bollenstreek you can even wander amongst the flower beds and snap away with your camera, just as long as you take care not to damage the flowers. The farmers for the most part are quite obliging, but will quickly get aggravated if you start acting the fool. And of course there are the fun flower fields where they allow you to pick as many tulips as you like for a small fee in return, such as Anne Miekes picking garden (pluktuin) in Hillegom or Tulpen en Zo in Julianasdorp.
But my passion is seeing them from the air. As a qualified pilot, a proud owner of my own little airplane, I make sure to get airborne as much as I can, whether and day-pass from Herself permitting, to see the majesty and carpet of colour that can only be found in this part of the world. It truly is a breathtaking experience, and one that has seen past passengers make trips back year after year to come fly with me and see the fields from the air one more time. We’ve even started to advertise flights for anyone else who was interested.
Of course, the tulips flowering in the fields never make it to the florists. The flowers bloom and shortly after, they are decapitated and the green leaves absorb the suns energy, putting it back into the bulbs which are then dug from the ground, packaged and sold on to gardeners the world over. The flowers sold to florists for displaying on your window sill are all grown inside green houses and will bloom almost all year round thanks to the ingenious way the growers freeze the bulbs and then plant in rotation in their greenhouses.
Spring is a thing of beauty no matter where you are, but it’s something that little bit extra special here in the Netherlands. If you’re interested in seeing them from the air for yourself, then feel free to send me a message and we can try and arrange something for you.