When people say they’re visiting the Netherlands, the first thing that comes into their mind is the tulips—rows upon rows of perfectly bright, elongated petals that stand tall against the blue sky. Every travel blog dedicated to the Netherlands always mentions these lovely flowers. After all, these blooms are the biggest tourist draw for the country. Available in almost every color of the rainbow, tulip fields have become the standard hero image of the Netherlands.
So where did it all start? How did tulips become an enduring symbol for the Netherlands?
How Did Tulips Come to the Netherlands?
However steeped tulips are in the culture of the Netherlands, tulips were not born and bred on their lands. Tulips originated from the Tien Shan mountain ranges in Central Asia and have been cultivated by gardeners in the Ottoman Empire for decades. When European travelers visited the empire, they were fascinated by the beauty of exotic blooms and longed to bring them home. Tulips were officially introduced in the Netherlands at the end of the sixteenth century.
No one knows who was the first to bring tulips to the country; tradition has it that it was Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, the ambassador of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor to Suleyman the Magnificent. He sent the flowers to his friend, Carolus Clusius, A Flemish botanist at the University of Leiden. The botanist cultivated the flowers, which soon became so popular that people grew them as garden decorations. The country began using tulips as a trading product.
Why Do Tulips Grow So Well in the Netherlands?
Tulips grow best in maritime areas or those within 30-50 miles from the coast. They also need sandy-clay soil. The Netherlands has a combination of maritime climate and sandy-clay soil ideal for growing tulips.
Moreover, it has a mild climate that tulips love. The annual average temperature in the country is at 48 degrees Fahrenheit, which is ideal for tulip cultivation. The temperatures do not deviate as much; winters and summers are both mild. The rain is forgiving, too. The average rain precipitation is 2.5” to 3.5” per month.
As such, tulips grow abundantly, enough to be exported. Soon, it had decorated the conservatories and garden rooms of people across Europe. Today, the Dutch flower industry is worth about $7.6 billion.
The Tulip Festival
The tulip has become so embedded in the country’s culture that Amsterdam holds an annual Tulip Festival, where people from all over the world admire colorful flower fields in full bloom in spring.
One of the highlights is the Keukenhof Tulip Garden near Amsterdam, which will be open from 20 March to 9 May 2021. The garden is home to more than 7 million flower bulbs with about 800 varieties. The 32-hectare garden also houses various flower shows, unique artwork, and inspirational gardens. It’s kid-friendly too, with playgrounds open for little children.
The tulip has become almost synonymous with the Netherlands. Although it did not originate in the country, the people loved and nurtured the blooms, and the flowers nurtured the country’s economy in return.