When the plane leaves cruising altitude approaching Amsterdam, a look out of the windows will present you with a view with miles upon miles of greenhouse roofs glistening in the sun. And if you travel the country by car, chances are good that you will pass through colorful tulip fields somewhere along the way. The Dutch are globally known for their flowers, particularly their tulips, but what’s the story behind that connection?
Tulips were originally cultivated in Persia and from there made their way to Turkey. International traders brought the flower to Central Europe in the late 16th century. Here, tulips quickly gained popularity, The flowers were seen as exquisite, exotic and noble, particularly because of the deeply saturated petal colors. The Dutch as one of the world’s most active trading nations quickly seized upon the perceived value of tulips and started developing them, experimenting with seeds and cultivating tulips. Thanks to the perceived value of the flowers, a so-called “tulip mania” was invoked in the 1630s, with merchants at times selling the bulbs at higher prices than gold. Speculators and business-minded persons entered the market, looking for quick gains and entirely indifferent to the beauty of the flower itself. One anecdote tells the story of an entire house in a Dutch city being sold for three tulip bulbs. Naturally, the market overheated and a few months later, the bubble burst.
However, when the market crashed, cultivators had been busy creating new variants to feed the frenzy and tulips graced Dutch fields everywhere. With the accumulated expertise in growing and cultivating the flower, the Dutch became the greatest authority in tulips. Despite the fact that thousands of small investors had lost everything they had, the nation developed an affinity towards the tulip, now once again seeing the flower’s value in its beauty and in the many varieties that could be derived from it.
The particular climatic conditions in the Netherlands and the properties of the soil are especially suitable for tulip bulbs to grow and, as tulips never lost their popularity with gardeners, the Netherlands soon became the world’s leading producer of tulips.
Up until this day. tulips and the Netherlands are inseparably connected. In fact, they have become one of the country’s leading tourist attractions. In spring, starting with the crocus in March and culminating in the bloom of the tulips from mid-April to May, large swaths of the country’s soil becomes covered by intense colors. The community of Noordoostpolder northeast of Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ prime outdoor planting area where you are sure to walk between miles of flower fields in that time. The world’s leading flower exhibition can be found at Keukenhof just outside of the town of Leiden and is also worth a visit for flower enthusiasts.
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