Reflections: Keukenhoff, Hortus Botanicus, & Oxford Botanic Garden

It’s hard to imagine that this time last year I was traveling through the Netherlands and searching for a place to live in England.  Honestly it’s amazing to look back and realize how naive I was about this whole process.  It’s also an utter delight to flip through my pictures and see how enchanting spring time in Europe is.  So, in true #FBF fashion, let me take you back a year and show off some of the flowers and places I fell in love with!

The Netherlands

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Rainbow of calla lilies at Keukenhoff garden.

Back in April 2017 I took my first ever trip to the Netherlands specifically as a tulip tourist/ pilgrim.  After experiencing Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan, I was keen to see the how the Holland did spring time, and I’m pleased to say that I was enthralled to constantly be surrounded by tulips. I remember as our plane was descending into Amsterdam there were stripes of bright colors where all the tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils were planted.  The view was just as stunning from the ground.  Jeffrey and I would drive from place to place and no matter where we looked there was always either a field of the greenest grass we’d ever seen or there were eye popping fields of flowers in every color imaginable.  When we would ride with our windows down we could smell the sweet, fresh aroma coming from the fields.

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River of Latifolium at Keukenhoff

If you plan to make a tulip pilgrimage either this year or next, be sure to snag a ticket to Keukenhof Garden, which, according to their website, boasts over 7 million bulbs “with a total of 800 varieties of tulips.”  When we went last year we were swimming in tulips and other varieties of bulb flowers.  It was truly a garden of visual pleasure that dazzled me with its immense diversity and shear volume of blooms. The landscaping is superb and there were moments where I would get lost in the patterns and colors.  It was like being in a museum where the paintings were alive.  For me, the most memorable display was just before the tulip glass houses where there was a stream of Latifolium, which are a kind of broad leaf grape hyacinth (muscari) that are a vivid blue-violet, flowing between a copse of birch and beech trees.  When they blew in the breeze it was like hearing and seeing water flowing– truly stunning.

 

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Tulip glass house in Keukenhoff

Of course, the tulip glass houses were remarkable in every way.  There were dozens of plots dedicated to countless types of tulips, so walking around felt like walking in the seams of a quilt.  It was a beautiful patchwork of color and texture! I’ll admit that the glass houses were a bit difficult to move through since there were so many people wandering around the flowers, but it was stunning none-the-less.  I felt that despite the crowds we came to Keukenhoff at the right time as the flowers were either right at peak just past it, so we managed to see a large variety of flowers in a small amount of time (if you can count over 2 hours little time).  I’ll be featuring my favorite Keukenhoff tulip babies in my Instagram stories tonight, so be sure to check them out!

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View of semi-circle garden in Hortus Botanicus

In addition to experiencing Keukenhoff, Jeffrey and I made our way to Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam.  This garden was first established in 1638 and is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world.  According to their website, the garden was founded in the 17th century in order to educate doctors and pharmacists about the use of plants in treating disease.  As the daughter of an herbalist, the fact that this garden had been dedicated to how plants can help heal the body was fascinating.  The Snippendaal garden is a recreation of what would have been cultivated in 1646, and while the layout may not be true to the original, the content of the beds certainly is!  You can check out the original catalog here.  Be warned — it’s mostly in Dutch.  I was a little disappointed that the Snippendaal garden wasn’t in bloom, but we honestly came too early to see any perennial herbs and flowers.  I think the next time we visit we’ll try to travel in the summer when the herb garden is in full bloom and leaf.  Not to say that I was in the least bit unimpressed by the spring bulbs and blooms I saw there.  If I could imagine the Garden of Eden, I may describe it just as I saw it in Hortus Botanicus: lush green grass; white, pink and purple tulips, hellebores, and daffodils; bees buzzing in the flowers on the ground and in the trees; white and pink petals swaying in the sun and landing like snow on my shoulders.  It was one of the most beautiful, tranquil places I’ve ever been.

England

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View of the conservatory from the Contemporary Medicinal Plant Collection.

From Amsterdam we traveled to England to start our search for an apartment.  We didn’t find one on that trip, but we did continue to bask in the spring sunshine.  In keeping with historic gardens, we made our way to Oxford to visit England’s oldest botanic garden.  According to their website,  Oxford Botanic Garden was established in 1621 and Walled Garden is part of the original garden.  I was thrilled with the Walled Garden less for its age and more for the way its plants were organized (yeah, I know, nerdy).  The plants are organized by botanical families and then there is also a bed dedicated to contemporary medicinal plants.  I think the more I explore gardens, I realize that I’m drawn to how they’ve been used historically in food and medicine.  My mom always made sure that I understood how what we put into our bodies impacts our health, and I like to think that my mom and I have something in common with 17th century humans.  For me, it shows how wellness and healing spans the centuries, and how our understanding of medicine and healing have evolved.

If you’re interested in planning a trip to Oxford Botanic Garden, I recommend taking a look at the map to get a good idea of what there is to see.  While I love a good flower bed, I was also impressed by their glass houses.  The collections are a bit smaller, but I can never get over how alien so many of these tropical and alpine plants are.  Be sure to check out my Instagram stories and highlights to see some of my favorite pretties and weirdos!

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Herbaceous border just outside the Walled Garden at Oxford Botanic Garden. Springy tulips in full bloom and flowering vines just starting to leaf.

Sitting here now in my English “flat” and reflecting on the past year, I feel privileged to have traveled so much and to have seen so many wondrous places.  Cheers to adventures old and new!

If you’re interested in the places I’ve visited and want to know more about them, feel free to reach out in the comments or by email.  Also be sure to give me a follow on Instagram to stay up to date on the gardens I visit, the plant babies I covet, and updates on my new allotment!

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