Garden Diary - April 2012

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Saturday, 21 April 2012
Holland in Tulip Time: Keukenhof, Part I

Day two, and what a day. We're off to Keukenhof. Nearly 80 acres. Seven million flower bulbs, planted fresh each year. Only open from the last week in March until approximately mid-May (depending on the weather.) And the day we are here 900 tour buses will bring hoardes of visitors to see the stupendous display. Each year is different: different designs, different bulbs, different weather. It is a safe assumption that there will be masses of tulips, a plethora of daffodils, and hyacinths and minor bulbs and, and, and lots of flowers. Eager, like a race horse at the starting gate I contain myself with difficulty. There's a tour for the group. Again, I dart off on my own.

There's a framework of woodland here, and old trees, massive beeches with their smooth gray bark.
A river of soft blue grape hyacinths, Muscari armeniacum, pours between banks of white daffodils.
The muscari are, I believe, 'Valerie Finnis', and the daffodils are a Triandrus, perhaps 'Ice Wings'.

Wait! It's not really a castle, just a painting. Forced perspective, trompe l'oeil.

Glowing, intense, a deeper, richer blue flow of muscari between the sinuous flow of seductively
nodding flowers of Tulipa sylvestris. The closer I look, the more enchanting the combination.


My memories from previous visits to Keukenhof are of just such painterly drifts of color. How lovely,
this year, to see more naturalistic designed plantings that combine bulbs and herbaceous perennials.
This pairing of deep rose pink Lenten rose, Helleborus orientalis, and white narcissus is one that
I would enjoy in my own garden. The boardwalk, creating a level surface across the sloping ground,
is also a nice feature. I saw several such plant combinations and hardscaping that could "come home."

I was also quite taken with the numerous "tapestry" plantings that incorporated a variety of bulbs in the one
space. For example this sweeping design that harmoniously blends a coupe of daffodil cultivars including
orange cupped yellow petaled 'Jetfire' , a white tulip with leaves pencil striped with a thin yellow margin,
and the stately crown imperial, Fritillaria imperialis with its tuft of leaves above vivid orange bells.


Other fritillaria were also on display. This magnificent, somber hued
Fritillaria persica was used as an accent while the significantly
smaller F. uva-vulpis was used as a tapestry component.


Another elegant bulb for the Spring woodland garden, Erythronium 'Kondo', here used
in a delicate glade-like setting, a mossy opening amidst some rhododendrons.

As well as the majority of bulbs planted in the ground there were some spectacular
large bowls. This simple planting combines a vivid red tulip with Scilla tubergeniana.
I am so happy to hear that its name has gone back to this easier to say and spell species
name from its revision to mischtschenkoana. The sound a sneezing cat might make.

A different version adds a white grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum 'Album', to the tulips
and skim milk pale flowers of the scilla. An improvement? Don't know. What do you think?

But if you want a splash of color just choose this sturdy dwarf double flowered yellow tulip
again with some of the incandescent blue grape hyacinths. Inexpensive, prolific, and showy.

Tour Comment: A day at Keukenhof was a major deciding factor when choosing which tour I would sign on for. Some tours spent just a few hours. We were here longer, and on the last Saturday in April. Which, as you will see, is important.

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