The gardens at Keukenhof in April are quite remarkable. Great rivers of tulips are everywhere. Small exhibitions in the Juliana house give background information to the history and also to the planting practices of this huge venture: 7 million tulips (and other flowering bulbs) are planted each year and each year, at the end of flowering, these are all taken up and crushed to be used as compost around the trees in the garden and made into pulp for the paper which covers the guides to the estate.
As a not-for-profit organisation, in addition to the garden architects, the gardens rely on an army of volunteers. From May onwards the gardens are closed to allow time for the essential work of taking up the tulips and replanting, until reopening for the spring display. The bulbs in each garden area are given to Keukenhof by growers in the Netherlands and the name of the company appears as signage on the beds. For those wishing to make a note of their favourites, tulips are also discretely labelled, although it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormous range on display!
25 September Starting to plant things instead of just weeding and pulling up. This picture shows newly planted clumps of lilyturf (Liriope muscari) looking happy under the Tree of Heaven. The lilyturf was kindly donated by a CABAHS member.
We are ordering 2,000 bulbs of Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ and Thalia, for some spring colour, these should arrive in a week or so. Lots of planting to do!
28 September A lesson and/or debate on how to plant a shrub! These are the Pittosporum “Tom Thumb” being planted.
Do you ever plant things in your garden and forget that you have done so? I have clearly planted these tulips in a pot (last year? The year before?) and they have surprised me by coming up a treat.
That is probably part of the interest in planting bulbs. It is deferred gratification if ever there was an example. The anticipation of beauty to come. To some extent it is similar to sowing seeds, although here there is less of an excitement of immediate colour. Gardening is a thing of hope!
March and April are hugely busy in terms of seed sowing. At home I have a small patch given over to vegetables. It used to be bordered by trimmed box, but with the depredations of the box moth, all this has had to be removed. This year, I have decided to sow the annual Salvia Viridis to create the borders. It used to be grown so much, but seems to have become less popular and I haven’t seen it for years. I am hoping this will create an attractive foil for the tomatoes, salad greens, shallots and climbing beans that I plan to have here.
For my allotment I have my usual courgettes ( three varieties) tomatoes ( four varieties) runner and French beans, potatoes (earlies and maincrop) cucumber, beetroot, celeriac, cavalo nero and purple sprouting broccoli. I am going to add carrots, turnips and swedes. If the seed stocks in the garden centres on the weekend of 22 March are anything to go by, a large proportion of the population is anticipating a problem with food supply! I hope I have enough to feed the extended family.
My allotment soil is incredibly heavy and successive years of cultivation have done little to break it down. For those new to gardening, this could be very off-putting. Watching Monty Don or Joe Swift or Adam Frost plant vegetables in soil that is honed to a fine tilth you could blow on it and create a hole and then be confronted by the average plot, is something that might make you quail. In the week before lockdown ( are we all thinking in terms of ‘before lockdown’ and ‘after lockdown’ now?) I had two guys dig over the plot, but this still leaves large clods of soil which need to be broken up. I am now in the backbreaking process of doing this. Only then can I direct- sow into the soil, or plant things like French beans.