Spring 2010 and the girls are bowled over bowling through the bulbfields of North Holland. Fields and fields of lilac and pink hyacinths, vast stripes of red and yellow and purple tulips. Perfumes that almost make us giddy, and certainly make us smile. Beautiful, uplifting, energising – Dutch pride and professionalism, a horticulturalist’s paradise and a real fillip for the gardener in us. The whole area was an exercise in colour coordination and companion planting.Colour, form, texture combinations

We spent a day in the Keukenhof gardens and watched the park change as whole beds of different bulbs opened through the day. We took hundreds of photos – here’s a selection.

We followed the annual Bloemencorso through Lisse and Hillegom and were struck by the engagement of the entire community in the celebration of the produce of their lands.

Cycling in Holland is fab – it’s mostly flat, but never boring. Canals, rivers, always entertaining with the birdlife, the boat activity, and canalside industries. Holland is full of interesting smells, the cows in the countryside, chocolate factories, hash in the towns – and when you are cycling you get to enjoy all these different smells.

Bloemencorso 2010Then there’s the wind, strong, sharp and biting off the North Sea. The Dutch seem to have developed a pragmatic attitude to the wind and evolved some highly effective coping strategies, including a low stooped cycling position on their heavy upright cycles. We noticed that many of the trees along the canals were pollarded, presumably to maximise shelter while minimising the danger of undermined trees blocking vital waterways. They are also very adept at pleaching – pruning trees to an almost two-dimensional fan shape, again to maximise shade in particular directions.

We’ve made friends with the Newcastle-Ijmuiden ferry. It’s grand cycling on and off, up the ramp and away.

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