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FLOWER POWER; Millions of bulbs are being planted in Holland, ready for next spring. LINDSAY SUTTON reports on this growth industry.

EVERYONE knows that tulips and Amsterdam go together. As the old song goes: "When it's spring again, I'll bring again, tulips from Amsterdam."

Except the not-so-humble tulip was in danger of rapidly becoming a rarity in the landscape of built-up Amsterdam - and that became a big worry for the city authorities.

The stark truth is that the tulip - for so long the traditional symbol of Holland - has in recent years virtually vanished from the streets, canal banks and window boxes of the five-storey houses that line the waterways of old Amsterdam.

Like so many things, the beautiful bloom was taken for granted - and over time, Amsterdammers lost sight of the fact that it was the tulip that helped put their city on the map.

So, the good people of Amsterdam decided to once more embrace flower power. They decided to plant one tulip for every citizen, with the aim of putting in more than 800,000 bulbs over two years.

This spring, they passed the half-way mark, with exactly 423,207 tulips popping up in key areas of the city. They even came up with the idea of a two-year Tulip Festival to reinforce the people's pride in their country's symbolic flower.

Next spring should see the full target reached in Amsterdam, and that means a huge bulb-planting project, which began in mid-October and will last until mid-December.

At the same time, an hour from Amsterdam, more than 7 million bulbs will be planted at the flower industry's vast showpiece garden at Keukenhof, which will be visited by more than a million people during the two-month 'flower power' blooming period between mid-March and mid-May.

It's a joy to see the industry's showcase exhibition in 37 hectares of cultivated parkland close to the town of Lisse.

|Keep on It's designed in the manner of an English country estate, with curved walkways and back-cloth lakes, amid vast arrays of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and lilies, planted in the open air or in vast glasshouses.

Crowds of to see the amid the Keukenhof. For just [euro]16, you can pretend that you're Monty Don or Carol Klein and spend a whole day in your very own 'Gardeners' World.' The bulbs planted here are donated by 100 growers, the displays then act as 'business cards' to buyers and visitors alike.

There is a different theme each year, this one honouring Van Gogh. Naturally, there's a flower depiction of the great Dutch Master's self portrait, which is proving a big hit with visitors.

turning... visitors flock old windmill daffodils at Gardens Keukenhof itself is on the site of a landscape-designed country estate that was bought and built up by a rich merchant during Holland's 'Golden Age' (1588-1702), when tulip mania took root and then ruined many a get-rich-quick dealer.

But the flower business survived, learned its lessons and stabilised, and you see the results in the mile-long rows of commercially grown, brightly coloured flowers as you travel through the Dutch countryside near Haarlem and neighbouring Lisse.

You can even get up close in low, flat boats that take you along the drainage and irrigation canals around Keukenhof: it really is a stunning experience.

To get around Holland independently is simplicity itself, using the country's joined-up public transport system. The train from Schipol Airport to Amsterdam takes less than 30 minutes for [euro]4. Likewise, the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem is similarly fast and cheap.

Haarlem is a fine old town and an ideal base for the 'Tupilmania Tour,' which includes the stimulating Frans Hals Museum. In keeping with the tulip theme, volunteers arrange new flower displays daily as an added attraction. Not to mention the glorious paintings of the great Frans Hals himself.

A short walk from the welcoming Amrath Grand Hotel Frans Hals puts you on the two-bus journey to Keukenhof for the day.

Back in Amsterdam there's more walking, or you can travel by bike, tram, bus, or canal boat. It's a very manageable city, and beautiful too.

A visit to the famous Rijksmuseum is on the cards, with its Vermeer and Frans Hals paintings on display, as well as a Rembrandt collection.

The restored Rembrandt House, where he lived for 20 years and had a studio, is fascinating in its own right.

Back on the horticultural trail, the Hortus Botanicus - one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world - has been a sanctuary from the city for 300 years, and has 4,000 plant species in its gardens and greenhouses. Another must on Holland's flower power trail.

NEED TO KNOW For | more information, go to holland.com Other helpful sites: keukenhof. |nl; tulpfestival.com; dehortus.nl; rembrandthuis.nl/en; franshals museum.nl; rijksmuseum.nl/en.

KLM flights from London or |Manchester to Amsterdam from PS160 return - klm.com Amsterdam City Card - |unlimited public transport and access to many attractions for 24, 48 or 72 hours. From [euro]39.50 online - iamsterdam.com Hotels: Haarlem - amrath |hotels.nl/franshals; Amsterdam - www.hotelluxer.nl Restaurants: Haarlem - hofje |zonderzorgen.nl; Amsterdam - restaurantmerkelbach.nl

CAPTION(S):

Keep on turning... |Crowds of visitors flock to see the old windmill amid the daffodils at Keukenhof Gardens

Tulips, tulips everywhere... |A colourful display of tulips inside one of the pavilions at Keukenhof Gardens
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Nov 14, 2015
Words:874
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