Keukenhof: a paragon of beauty for 65 years
On 20 March 2014, Keukenhof will be opening its gates for the 65th time. When it closes eight weeks later, some 800,000 visitors from across the world will have visited the international flower exhibition. As such, Keukenhof makes a significant contribution to tourism in the Netherlands. Keukenhof now has a hundred flower bulb growers supplying bulbs to the park and five hundred flower growers participating in the flower shows. Nearly fifty million people have visited the park since it first opened.
Keukenhof’s mission, now and in the future, is to be the international and independent showcase for the Dutch floricultural sector, with a special emphasis on flowering bulbs.
Keukenhof for “the trade”
Keukenhof is the platform for the Dutch floricultural sector. For the exhibitors and participants in the flower shows, it provides a superb showcase for their bulbs, flowers and plants. The park is redesigned every single year. Keukenhof’s designer takes inspiration from the latest trends and adapts the design to suit the specific wishes of growers. This in turn provides inspiration to the 800,000 visitors who gather new ideas to apply at home. In the flower shows, the arrangers also put the latest gardening ideas into practice. All of this enables Keukenhof and the growers to support and strengthen each other. Large numbers of photographs of Keukenhof make their way all over the world, reaching millions of consumers. The world’s press is also eager to report on all the beautiful things on display at Keukenhof.
Of the total share of visitors, 15% has links to the trade and numerous trade events are organised for growers. Keukenhof presents an excellent opportunity to network and meet business contacts, and the organisation has strong links with all the relevant organisations in the sector.
Keukenhof originally focused almost exclusively on flower bulbs, but now has much more to offer. The historic park, which dates from 1857 and was designed in the English landscape garden style by Zocher, forms the perfect backdrop for the flower bulbs. Visitors can become acquainted with cut flowers, plants and tree nursery products.
Each year, thirty gardeners plant bulbs at reserved locations throughout the park. At the end of the season, these bulbs are harvested, and a new cycle of planting, blooming and harvesting begins again in the autumn.
In order to ensure that Keukenhof always has a new look, the planting is redesigned every year. The plants are carefully selected so that visitors can enjoy bulbs in full bloom throughout the entire period Keukenhof is open. The seven million flower bulbs are supplied completely free of charge by a hundred exhibitors who could hardly imagine a better showcase for their products.
Keukenhof inspires its visitors with a range of different styles of gardens and interiors, in which flower bulbs and bulb flowers always play a key role. The different parts of the park vary from the English landscape garden to the renovated Japanese country garden. The contemporary Spring Meadow offers surprising perspectives and exciting vistas and brings out the very best of the ancient trees. In the natural garden, shrubs and perennials are combined with naturalised bulbs. The historic garden is home to old varieties of tulip and uses these special varieties to demonstrate the tulip’s long journey prior to its arrival in the Netherlands.
The seven inspirational gardens give visitors the unique opportunity to gain ideas for their own gardens. For children, Keukenhof has a maze, a playground and a petting zoo. A treasure hunt takes them along the most beautiful places in the park.
Keukenhof has its own sculpture garden. A network of artists will be exhibiting around 150 pieces. The art exhibition is characterised by a wide variety of styles, materials, figurative and abstract movements and different cultures.
Flower shows at Keukenhof
The pavilions feature a changing selection of 30 flower and plant shows. Growers exhibit a wide variety of flowers and plants in all different colours and shapes. Of course, all of them are of the highest quality! This is the pinnacle of the competition among the growers to decide the best horticultural product, varying from tulips to roses. An expert judging panel will choose the best flower in each category. Consumers will also have an opportunity to judge the flower shows and choose the most beautiful product.
For years, Keukenhof has reserved the thousand square-metre Beatrix Pavilion specifically for orchids. This show is the most beautiful orchid show in Europe. Another traditional leading attraction is the lily show in the Willem-Alexander Pavilion. In its 6,000 square metres, visitors can admire approximately 15,000 lilies in over 300 different varieties.
The Oranje Nassau Pavilion showcases the use of flower bulbs in interiors. It demonstrates how flower bulbs can be applied in different styles of interior design, from classic to modern. Several well-known arrangers will stage demonstrations of how the flowers can be used in surprising ways to create original bouquets.
Theme for 2014: Holland
The tulip is the distinctive icon of Netherlands throughout the world. And as the Keukenhof’s theme for 2014 is Holland, it can do no other than give the tulip centre stage. The Willem-Alexander Pavilion is full of tulips in bloom. An exhibition being organised in the Juliana Pavilion shows the history of the tulip, 17th Century tulip mania and today’s tulip as contemporary icon. The renovated Historic Garden contains extra information about the origin of the tulip.
And the highlight of the theme year, the flower bulb mosaic depicting an Amsterdam canal scene with a tulip as large as a canal house. The design symbolises tulip mania during the Golden Age. This is a fantastic spring photo opportunity for visitors. The mosaic is made from 60,000 tulips and muscaris.
Importance for Tourism
Many international tourists still visit the Netherlands for its special icons. Tulips, windmills, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dutch cheese, the Dutch East India Company; these are all typical Dutch icons that together tell the story of the Netherlands. Together with major tourist partners, Keukenhof has compiled a promotion programme for sales and marketing activities at home and abroad.
Keukenhof’s importance to tourism in the Netherlands is huge. Annually, we welcome 800,000 visitors from more than 100 countries. These don’t only include individual visitors, but also companies and organisations wishing to show their (international) guests what the Netherlands has to offer.
Approximately 75% of visitors come from abroad, with the most important countries being Germany, United States, France, United Kingdom and China. There is a particularly significant growth in the number of tourists from America, South America, Eastern Europe and Asia. The bulb sector in general, the tulip and Keukenhof in particular, are vital to the Netherlands’ tourist image.
The park acts as a large magnet, attracting visitors to its own sector as well as the hospitality industry, retail, overnight accommodation, transportation companies, museums and other attractions and events. In addition, Keukenhof attracts visitors during a period when there are few other attractions. Unlike other popular tourist attractions, Keukenhof is open for a limited number of weeks only.
Keukenhof is the key attraction: for the floricultural sector, for the region and for the Netherlands, making a significant contribution to the country’s image abroad. For example, the website of the highly regarded travel guide Lonely Planet opens with a feature on Keukenhof. Wikipedia has just one photograph of the Netherlands: of Keukenhof.
The history of Keukenhof
Keukenhof started as an initiative on the part of ten flower bulb growers and exporters who create a showcase for the flower industry. In 1949, they opted for an ideal location: the gardens around Keukenhof castle.
Following the death of the Countess Jacoba van Beieren in 1436, the large estate passed through the hands of several wealthy merchant families, including Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt. They asked the landscape architects Zocher, who were also responsible for the Vondelpark in Amsterdam and the gardens of Soestdijk Palace, to design a garden around their castle. The English landscape garden they created in 1857 still forms the basis for the park today.
Keukenhof is saturated in historic details. The tulips alone have countless stories to tell. In the 17th century, wealthy investors paid enormous sums for tulip bulbs. Eventually, the middle class also saw a chance to earn immense profits, and the first commodities hype was born, known as tulipomania. Traders could earn the fantastic amount of 30,000 Euros per month by trading in tulip bulbs. Some people sold their companies or their family jewels in order to take part in the trade. But in 1637, the market collapsed completely and thousands of people were ruined.
The mill at Keukenhof is more than a century old. It was built in Groningen in 1892, and was used to pump water out of a polder. In 1957, the Holland-America Line bought the mill and donated it to Keukenhof.
Jacoba van Beieren: tempestuous hostess
For many years, Jacoba van Beieren was the hostess of Keukenhof. In the 15th century, she was the owner of the area where Keukenhof is now located. At that time the area was still a piece of untouched nature, used only for hunting and to gather herbs for the castle’s kitchen, which is where the name Keukenhof originally comes from.
Countess Jacoba van Beieren was born in 1401 and died in 1436. During the period from 1417 to 1433, she ruled Holland, Zeeland and Henegouwen. ‘Never a dull moment’ is perhaps the best summary of the life of this somewhat tempestuous woman, who married four times, spent a few years in prison and lived in England for some time, in exile. One of her favourite pastimes seems to have been waging war – she was even willing to go to war with former husbands. In 1433, she was forced to abdicate from all of her Counties. She withdrew from public life and, at the age of just 35, she died of tuberculosis in Castle Teylingen, not far from Keukenhof.
From its very first year, in 1950, Keukenhof has had the privilege to receive of a great deal of interest from the Dutch Royal House. In that year, the former Queen Juliana was the patron of the exhibition. She made numerous visits to Keukenhof, both private and official, often as part of state visits during which she was accompanied by the four princesses and Prince Berhard. The princesses once sat on the jury for a garden contest and their completed score cards have been preserved for posterity. In 1962, the Royal couple even made a visit to Keukenhof as part of their 25th wedding anniversary.
In 1974, the 25th edition of Keukenhof was a very special and festive occasion, because Her Majesty Queen Juliana agreed to do the honours during the official opening. She inaugurated the new pavilion, named in her honour.
The openings have been conducted by members of the Royal Family on a number of occasions: Queen Beatrix, Prinsess Margriet and Prince of Orange. The planting of the Royal Lime Tree in 2001 by Mrs Máxima Zorrequieta was one of the future Queen’s first official presentations to the Dutch people.
There have also been regular visits from Royal guests from abroad, including the royal couples of Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain and the Queen of Sweden.
Facts and figures about Keukenhof
- Keukenhof is open for eight weeks each year
- Annually, Keukenhof welcomes 800,000 visitors
- 75% of visitors to the park come from abroad
- The park covers 32 hectares
- Every year, 7 million bulbs are planted
- Keukenhof features 30 flower shows
- The bulbs are supplied by 100 exhibitors
- There are seven inspirational gardens featuring gardening ideas for consumers
- Sculpture garden with approximately 150 works of art
More at The Dutch Daily News