The Dutch Bulb Fields

AlanGardenMaster
Published on May 6th 2019
24
The Dutch bulb fields in spring
I knew it would be good but I was unprepared for the spectacular colour of Dutch bulb fields in spring!

A little Background

Holland is the world's biggest bulb producer and their flower bulbs are shipped all around the world. The soils and climate are perfect for growing most bulbs. There is however a notable exception and that is daffodils and Narcissus. These grow better in the UK and the production of these here exceeds that of Holland's.
The tulip is Holland's national flower and the Dutch nation has been responsible for introducing many great new varieties.
The soils are very sandy and well drained. Flat fields enable the growing of bulbs to be highly mechanised. Even the height of the water table is controlled to ensure that the roots get enough water but never too much.
Flower bulbs and tulips in Holland

Viewing the Fields

We chose to hire bikes from our hotel and this was the most popular mode of transport for getting up close and personal with these spectacular bulb fields. Bikes can also be hired from the car park of Keukenhof Gardens - not to cycle around the gardens which isn't permitted - but to access the nearby farmer's fields. We chose to hire E bikes as much for the novelty for us but also to be able to cover a greater distance in a day.
We set off armed with a free map showing lots of varied routes. Occasionally we rode on the roads but found the Dutch drivers very polite and respectful of cyclists. Perhaps it was our occasional wobble that made them give us a wide berth!
A bicycle parked by red tulip bulb fields
Bulb field routes are well marked with signs on most junctions. Frequently we rode on cycle paths through the fields and these were mostly but not always smoothly surfaced.
Inevitably we made frequent stops for yet another fabulous photo of colour that stretched to the horizon. Thank goodness for digital photography otherwise we would have run through a heck of a lot of film!
Some growers specialised in growing hyacinths, others tulips and few grew daffodils or grape hyacinths.
In some instances, we screeched to a halt because of the intoxicating scent. This was invariably from the hyacinths which I find often too powerful indoors.
Hyacinth flower bulbs in Holland

Lunch on the Beach!

The bulb fields are not far from sandy beaches and we lunched at one of the many excellent cafes right on the beach.
At this time of the year these long sandy beaches, backed by dunes, are almost deserted and somewhat monochrome. However, after the colour intensity of the bulb fields, this allowed us to recharge ready for our return journey through even more spectacular bulb fields!
Tulip flower bulbs in Holland bulb fields

Planting

Whilst most growers were busy checking their crops, we did find one planting. Not with a trowel like you and me but with a machine that did everything in one pass.
Bulbs were in pallet bins on the roof of the tractor, passed on a conveyor belt to the sophisticated planter at the rear and were automatically planted at the correct depth and spacing!
The machine that we saw working was planting Canna lilies that, because of their lack of winter hardiness, would be lifted in autumn and stored in frost free buildings over winter.
Tractor driven flower bulb planting machine

Off with their heads!

Each variety of bulb looks magnificent for a few days and during this time the growers walk the fields to remove any untrue varieties that have crept into the rows. This 'roguing' out ensures that the highest quality bulbs are always produced.
As soon as this has been done the flower heads are removed! This seems sacrilege but is done to concentrate the plant's energy into making the biggest and best bulbs for harvesting when dormant in summer.
Red tulip flower bulbs

Getting There

You can drive, fly or get there by coach but once you're there the best way to see the fields up close is either on foot or, like us, from a bike.
The bulb fields are not far from Amsterdam and the world famous Keukenhof Gardens. So in 3-4 days you can see them all three.
The Netherlands has an enviably efficient public transport system and this we made good use of. Schiphol airport is convenient to the bulb fields and most airports in the UK have flights to there.
If you join one of the many coach tours that travel to see the bulb fields in spring then I suspect that much of your viewing will be from the vehicle.
Daffodil bulb flowers in Dutch bulb fields

Timing

Our visit was during the third week of April. This was too late to see most daffodils, perfect for hyacinths and most tulips but too early for a few of the later blooming tulip varieties.
I would recommend visiting sometime between the second week of April and the first week of May.

Taking Selfies

Growers welcome you touring their fields but respectfully request that you view from the road or path. They ask you not to enter the fields. Sadly, it seems this request is increasingly being ignored. If you visit, and I hope that you will, I'm sure that you will be more respectful than a few visitors that we saw.
Girl taking a selfie with flower crown of daffodils

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