Garden Diary - April 2012

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Monday, 23 April 2012
Holland in Tulip Time: A Visit to the Bulb Fields

Once I had the tour's day to day schedule I could make plans to visit some of my Dutch friends. The best choice was the day that was entirely free so clock watching could be avoided. Accordingly it was on Monday, 23 April that I was off to the bulb fields of Voorhout and the Leidse Hortus.

I had peered longingly at the bulb fields as our tour bus rolled on by but we only stopped,
briefly, for snapshots through windows. Now I would walk (no tiptoeing) through the tulips.

The central train station is an easy walk from our hotel. My friend Leo van Tol gave me
precise times, even platform numbers. Take the 9:53 a.m. train on platform 15a to
Schiphol. Change to the Leiden Sprinter (no platform change) to Sassenheim where
he would meet me. Simple, and fun to watch the change from city to bulb fields.

We drove to Voorhout, where Leo's son-in-law Hein Meeuwissen has his bulb nursery.

It's relatively quiet now, as - though he sells other bulbs - his specialty is narcissus and.
species tulips. They're still growing in the fields, won't be dug for several months. A small
selection of summer bulbs are bagged, ready for sale. He has time to show me around.

The bulbs grow in slightly raised beds. The very sandy soil has a light mulch of straw.

Narcissus, stretching off as far as the eye can see. This thrills me so much more than
the local crop fields of corn or soy beans back home in the Garden State of New Jersey.


Pink hyacinths. Bulbs are rotated, Hein explains to me. Narcissus would be followed
by something completely different, hyacinths or tulips. It reduces disease and also

makes it very easy to notice a bulb that doesn't belong there.

Unless the fields are patrolled and the wrong one pulled it makes problems when bulbs
are dug, cleaned, sorted, and sold on from grower to wholesaler to retail customer.

Hein pulls a tulip to show me the problem with this one. Warm winter storage
and though it grew and flowered using its stored reserved the roots are puny.
Next year it will not grow as well, disappointing the home gardener. Out with it.

It drizzled a bit. Intent on the bulbs I barely noticed. The soft light makes the flowers
appear almost luminous. Holland in tulip time - I'm so fortunate to be here.

Tour Comment: Free day, so we're on our own. Many people went to museums. At least one woman took a tour to the Floriade, booking through the hotel as she felt that the one day with the group would not be adequate. I appreciated the opportunity to visit my Dutch friends and walk in the bulb fields.

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