Keukenhof: A flower fan's fantasy

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LISSE, Netherlands -- The gardens at Keukenhof here, a haven for flower-lovers, are open again.

A visitor can walk the 79 acres of the annual Keukenhof Exhibition for hours, greeted by the bursts of color provided by 7 million flowering bulbs.

Approximately 750,000 visitors make the trip to this flower mecca each year, even though the exhibition is open only for two months. This year's show runs through May 20; in 2005, it runs March 24 to May 16.

The Keukenhof garden show features not only more than 1,000 varieties of tulips but also daffodils and hyacinths. Each year, 30 gardeners spend about two months planting the flower bulbs, with a new design theme annually. Featured, of course, are the Netherlands' signature tulips -- more than 1,000 varieties are on display -- but visitors also will spot daffodils, hyacinths and others.

Most of the exhibition is outdoors, but check www.keukenhof.com for a schedule of indoor flower shows. One sure bet: Hundreds of lily specimens are displayed indoors during the last week of each year.

This year's exhibit features an international "Growing Hats" competition. The best entries are on display, as are 80 antique flower hats by famous fashion designers such as Christian Dior and Coco Chanel.

Visitors who find it hard to leave can take a piece of Keukenhof with them: The exhibition sells and ships bulbs.

Getting to Keukenhof is easy. The garden is in Lisse, only 19 miles from Amsterdam and about halfway between that city and the Hague. Trains stop at nearby Leiden, where travelers can catch public bus No. 54, the "Keukenhof Express," to the exhibition grounds.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily, with tickets sold until 6 p.m. Admission is about $14.50 for adults, around $13 for seniors age 65 and up and about $6.50 for children ages 4 through 11.

For tour packages to Keukenhof, consult garden-tour specialists such as Expo Garden Tours, which pays agents 10% commission on many packages. For details, call Expo Garden Tours at (860) 567-0322 or visit www.expogardentours.com.

Maupintour, meanwhile, is already selling space on the 2005 edition of its eight-night Gardens of Holland tour, which takes in next year's show. For information, call (800) 255-4266 or visit www.maupintour.com.

For more information on garden-themed travel to the Netherlands, contact the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions at (212) 557-3500 or www.holland.com/us.

To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].

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