I've been dithering about when to visit the Keukenhof gardens outside Amsterdam. The gardens are world-famous for their Spring display of tulips but as winter has been longer and colder than usual the tulips are flowering later than usual. There doesn't seem to be a 'state of the tulips' advice site (or if there is I haven't found it) to guide me in choosing the best time to visit so it's all been a bit of a punt.
Eventually I chose to visit on Wednesday this week which fortuitously was the warmest day there has so far been this year. Next week is my last week in Amsterdam and is a week of holidays and celebration for the installation of the new king, so I tried to avoid that week as I imagine there'll be lots of tourists and even locals making excursions around Amsterdam. (By the way, my Dutch friend Mieke tells me Keukenhof is just for the tourists, but that's OK because I'm a tourist).
I loved Keukenhof, though my visit was a lesson in limiting what you desire. Most of the millions of tulips are still in bud and I found myself thinking 'if only I'd waited another week or so'. But this week was the peak period for the daffodils and hyacinths and they would not have been so splendid next week. And anyway, by the end of the day even my tulip desires were satiated. What I found most wonderful about the gardens was the sense of abundance. The planting is dense and generous.
The hyacinths seemed very luxurious. Their scent was intoxicating:
The daffodils were often planted in beautifully neat lines and defined and divided spaces:
And even though there are many more tulips to come, how could they be more beautiful?
There were splendid massed displays of a single type of flower, but some of my favourite garden beds were those that combined different flowers. Not subtle, but wonderful:
Keukenhof has something for everyone. There are majestic trees just covered in a haze of green from their new Spring leaves, winding paths, neatly aligned geometric gardens, trees covered in blossom, lakes, bridges, fountains, sculptures and, miraculously, given the crowds, lots of benches on which to rest and just contemplate the flowers.