Flower Fests or Displays

This item appears on page 38 of the April 2012 issue.

We asked you to tell us about an annual event that you recently attended, outside of the US, involving flowers — a flower festival, a parade, an exhibition of flowers, a special bloom time, etc. Following are replies received.

Seeing the invitation for comments on flower fests, Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, THE NETHERLANDS, immediately came to mind. Keukenhof is the world’s largest flower garden, showcasing seven million of the bulbs that make Holland famous.

Three friends and I enjoyed a bike-and-barge tulip tour aboard the Elodie, May 2-9, 2010. We booked through Tripsite.com (Springville, PA; 877/965-2064) and paid €850 apiece for the boat, all meals, guide, bicycle and most admission fees (including Keukenhof).

We were enraptured by Keuken­hof for five hours! There are benches, restaurants, gift shops and bulb shops. If you buy bulbs to take, they will be from the previous season. If you order bulbs to be shipped in the fall, they will be from the new crop. I ordered tulips and narcissus and in 2011 got 66 blooms out of 45 bulbs. I don’t recall the cost.

In 2012 the site will be open 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily, March 22-May 20. Entry to the gardens will cost €14.50 (near $19) per adult and €7 per child. Parking costs €6. The Lisse flower parade will be April 21.

The glory of Holland in springtime is not limited to Keukenhof. For miles around, one sees commercial bulb fields. The sight of huge plantings of a single color is breathtaking. Just recalling the trip is wonderful.

Jon Lafleur
Kent, CT

My husband and I had a chance to visit Keukenhof Gardens (Stationsweg 166a, 2161 Am Lisse, The Netherlands; phone +31 [0] 252 465 555, fax +31 [0] 252 465 565) in 2011 for the annual exhibition of bulb flowers. The 32-hectare gardens are located between Amsterdam and The Hague and are open mid-March to mid-May every year. We visited during the third week of April.

It was, by far, the most spectacular garden we had ever visited. The colors and landscaping were literally breathtaking. Besides the outdoor displays, there are several indoor pavilions with exhibits that change yearly.

The crowds begin arriving mid morning, so the earlier you arrive, the fewer people you will encounter. We traveled from Amsterdam for the day.

The day before our visit, we purchased tickets at the tourist information center in the Leidseplein (square) in Amsterdam. The ticket included round-trip bus transportation from the Leidseplein to the gardens and the admission ticket (€28, or $37). This saved us from having to stand in line to purchase a ticket when we arrived.

We did have to change buses at the airport, but this was very easy to do. The ride through the bulb fields was all part of the experience.

All the information you will need to visit can be found at the garden’s website.

Nanci Alexander
Lexington, KY

My husband and I were staying in a B&B in Amerongen, central NETHERLANDS, in April ’05, and our very helpful landlord alerted us to the annual Bloemencorso, or Flower Parade (free). The parade starts at 9:30 in the morning in Noordwjik and goes 25 miles, ending in Haarlem at 9 p.m.

On a beautiful sunny day, we were on the road early with, in hand, a map and a list of the towns the parade would pass through. As we approached one of the towns, we saw congestion ahead, so we parked the car and ran to the street where the parade was passing.

What a spectacular sight! There were colorful floats — all made of tulips, of course — and decorated cars, marching bands and horses. It was like a miniature Rose Bowl parade. In fact, some of the floats were just as elaborate as those at the Tournament of Roses.

All too quickly, the parade had passed by, but they still had a long ways to go. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the 25-mile route.

(Editor’s note: in 2012 an illuminated night parade will be held in Noordwijkerhout on the evening of April 20, and the full parade will take place on April 21. The floats will be on display in Haarlem until 5 pm. on April 22.)

We then visited the famed Keuken­hof Gardens (the parade would pass by there a little later). We stood in a long line to buy tickets. It was the peak of the tulip season and a Saturday, so there were thousands of other people there to see the gardens — 79 acres of beautiful, perfectly planned and cared-for spring flowers of every description and color.

We strolled around the grounds with its pretty paths, streams, lakes and fountains. There were probably millions of flowers and not quite that many people (it was crowded)! It was a “film eating” day.

On the way back to our B&B, we passed huge tulip bulb fields — acres and acres of bright red, yellow, orange and pink. The colors were so brilliant, they almost hurt your eyes. Very impressive!

The last week of April was definitely the best time to see the tulips in Holland that year. A week later, the blooms all were cut off to strengthen the bulbs. All you would have seen then would have been barren fields. We were so fortunate, so blessed, to be there at the right time.

Emily Moore
Greenville, IL

When I took a trip to Holland and Belgium with Grand Circle Travel in May ’11, the cruise was timed to allow us to enjoy the flower season in Holland.

We visited Keukenhof Gardens and saw the fields of flowers in the countryside, but a special treat was an early-morning trip to the Aalsmeer Flower Auction (Legmeerdijk 313, Postbus 1000, 1430 BA Aalsmeer, The Netherlands; phone +31 [0] 297 39 39 39 — open 7-11 a.m., Mon.-Fri.; adult, €5).

Located about 10 miles outside of Amsterdam, it is the largest flower auction in the world; the building could hold 250 soccer fields inside.

Flowers from all over Europe, Africa and even Central America are sent there to be auctioned off every weekday during the year. They are picked one day by 5 p.m., sent to Aalsmeer by 6 a.m. the next morning, are auctioned off from 6:30 to 11 a.m. and are sent immediately to Schiphol Airport, right next door, and can be at, say, a florist’s in New York by 4 p.m. that same day.

The auction rooms and the movement of pallets of 48 million flowers are “organized chaos.” All of this can be seen from the catwalks that crisscross the enormous building. There are 13 auction rooms that can be viewed from the catwalks, and signs explain what is happening in the different sections.

The auction system is unique in that the auction leader sets a high price for each container of flowers, noting it on a huge auction clock. When the clock starts and the price begins to decrease, a buyer’s agent will press a button to stop the dial at a price that he feels is good, before another agent can beat him to it. The color and action are truly something special to see.

Monday, Tuesday and Friday are the busiest days on the floor. It is best to go early, before 9 a.m., to see the most action. Because of the size of the facility, it didn’t seem crowded with visitors. I went with a tour group from a ship, but the auction is open to anyone.

After the show, visit the gift shop, a good place to buy bulbs and have them shipped home.

If you are not on a tour, you can get there using the No. 172 bus from Amsterdam’ s Central Station. It goes right to the auction house.

Nancy Schlegel
Corte Madera, CA

My wife and I first encountered the Infiorata di San Luigi Gonzaga in Città della Pieve, ITALY, in June 1997, so in 2002 we timed our visit to again attend the festival of flowers in this delightful, small town in Umbria.

The citizens decorate the main street with fresh flower petals and other living plant materials sprinkled on honey in well-designed patterns. Young and old all work together on Saturday to make the flower designs. On Sunday the town members and visitors walk the street to view the handiwork. Sunday night, it all disappears. What a treat to see this community effort!

In 2012 the dates for the lnfiorata di San Luigi Gonzaga will be June 23 and 24. Other infiorate are held in other Italian towns and can be found through searching the Internet.

Paul Lindquist
Lewisburg, WV