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Lesley Bellew visits the spring flower garden at Keukenhof with Avalon Waterways

After a short flowering season, the seven million bulbs which make up the world’s largest spring flower garden at Keukenhof are dug up and made into compost.

It seems radical but no wonder the soil is so good. It has to be - Keukenhof is the showcase for Holland’s 100 royal suppliers of spring bulbs.

Each year Keukenhof’s designer creates a new garden in consultation with the suppliers to ensure the colours, height and flowering time of their bulbs will fit into his planting scheme.

Elephant hyacinths
Elephant hyacinths

The bulbs are delivered in late summer and the 30 gardeners begin the careful planting – all by hand.

Every year Keukenhof, in Lisse, south-west of Amsterdam, attracts 800,000 visitors from 100 countries who primarily come to see the swathes of tulips.

Holland’s national flower actually only makes up half of the garden while hyacinths, daffodils and other spring bulbs bulk up the garden, particularly at the beginning of the season.

Tulips in the spring sunshine
Tulips in the spring sunshine

The bulbs are planted in three layers, known as lasagne, so grape hyacinths, crocus and tiny Tete-a-Tete daffodils bring the garden alive with carpets of colour before the blousier daffodils and hyacinths, then tulips, steal the show.

This year, hyacinths in crescent-shaped beds of pinks and purples hug the park’s main lake. Their reflection doubles the colour but it is the scent that really makes visitors heady.

Inside the giant pavilions, sweet perfume is even more intense - an almost knock-out blow as visitors walk in. Among the classic blocks of colourful tulips, new varieties are showcased. A dazzling, inspiring display of hybrids fascinate even the most experienced gardener.

Tete-a-tete daffodils at Keukenhof
Tete-a-tete daffodils at Keukenhof

There’s an education pavilion and information centre for all levels of interest, as well as seven ‘Inspirational’ gardens for visitors wanting to learn more about recycling, attracting bees and insects to their gardens, kitchen gardens and more.

Despite the high-end horticulture, the 79-acre park is geared to all ages and its flat landscape makes for easy walking and wheelchairs. It is noticeably child-friendly and youngsters can join a treasure hunt, slide on the aerial runway, wear themselves out in the Miffy playground or visit the small farm area where the sheep, goats and turkeys all look very well fed.

If the children are still not exhausted, there’s a windmill to climb for views over the adjoining rainbow fields of cutting flowers and a boat trip around the park.

Bikes can also be hired to ride through the bulb-growing region.

Keukenhof has short window for visitors and closes on May 18. The gardens will open from March 20-May 17, 2015. Visit keukenhof.nl

Lesley Bellew visited Keukenhof with Avalon Waterways, on an excursion from Avalon Poetry II. The new suite ship offers eight-day Tulips of Holland cruises on April 9, 11 and 23, 2015, visiting Haarlem for Enkhuizen tulip fields, Friesland, Lelystad, Kampen, Gelderse Ijssel for Arnhem, Rotterdam for Keukenhof and Amsterdam with prices from £1,379.

Avalon Poetry II
Avalon Poetry II

Price includes door-to-door chauffeur service, return travel on Eurostar or flights from Heathrow, luxury accommodation, all meals and gratuities. 
Bromley-based Avalon Waterways can be contacted free on 0800 668 1190 or visit avaloncruises.co.uk

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