Keukenhof – a floral extravaganza

Without doubt one of the world’s greatest annual flower events, Keukenhof never disappoints, even if there’s an unseasonably cold spring season.   At Keukenhof this just means that the outdoor growth is retarded, but there’s still a floral extravaganza awaiting visitors inside the many pavilions.


The Vast Tulip Pavillion Keukenhof

This is a place dedicated to tulips, in fact it is almost a shrine, but then the humble tulip has probably contributed as much to the Dutch economy as any other commodity over the centuries, so it does, perhaps deserve more than a little reverence.


Tulipa Triple A

The refined and intense skills of the horticulturalists are all on display here with a mind boggling array of varieties, many of them stunningly beautiful, especially in the soft light of these huge display greenhouse pavillions.

TulipsYellow - otherwise known as Strong Gold

Tulipa Strong Gold

It is quite amazing how many variations of colour can be coaxed out of the classic vase shaped blooms and every year new varieties appear to delight the eye and boost the export coffers of the growers.

Tulipa Queensland

Tulipa Queensland

But sometimes, cleverness just goes too far.  I’m sure some will say this Tulipa Queensland is beautiful, but for me . . . well its just plain silly, having created something that belies the character of the tulip.

Narcissus Hea Moor

Narcissus Hea Moor

With over 7 million bulbs planted at Keukenhof every year there are plenty of other spring flowers included.  Daffodils are always the beacon of spring and again, the flower breeders manage to discover new facets of these vibrant blooms.

Narcissus Trepolo

Narcissus Trepolo

Narcissus being their botanic name, this variety seems to typify why they were given that name.  This one is called Narcissus Trepolo and its as if it knows its got’ it’ so its going to flaunt it.

Later blogs will show you more of the huge array of flowers at Keukenhof this year, but for now I’ll sign off with one of the most simple, but for me the most stunning.

The humble crocus

The humble crocus

The source of all saffron – the humble crocus.

See a selection of latest hybrids tulips from this year’s exhibition here.

Author: Bob Saunders (

Bee – right place, right time

With the re-launch of GardensOnline recently, the team have been extremely busy creating extra content for the site, including taking hundreds of new photos of plants to illustrate the interactive Plantfinder database.

So while Annie was focussing on a patch of Arum Lillies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) she noticed a bee heading straight for the golden spadix for a feed.

With uncanny timing she managed to capture one of those rare moments, (not unlike the two fingers touching in ‘Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind’) where the bee makes the lightest first touch in exploration of nature’s larder.

Arum Lily and Bee

Arum Lily and Bee

And, yes, you can just see the flurry of wings holding the bee in a perfect hover.

Amazing nature.

You can grow Arum Lillies from climate zones 8 to 11 and they are extremely easy to raise and maintain.

Find out more in the GardensOnline Plantfinder 

Author: Bob Saunders (

Chlorophyl, its in the Blood

Immersed, even marinated in plants and gardens as I was as a child I did not, however chose to follow the garden path to my career.  Sometimes its just better to keep your passion for ‘playtime’ rather than ‘worktime’.  The next love of my life emerged as an adolescent and blossomed in my early twenties at art school in England. I had decided to make photography my career.

The first thing they teach you is to ‘stop being a bloody amateur’, ‘don’t just make copies of what’s already there’, ‘CREATE, EXPRESS YOURSELF and MAKE pictures happen’.  And so under the skillful tutelage of Reg St Clair and others I became a photographer (a proper one – a professional).

But when it came to subject matter, old instincts die hard.  Still life I found to be very enjoyable if not challenging, with the extraordinary attention to detail required for imagery under the microscope of a large format camera.

So what does a poor art student do to find a subject when the cost of hiring pretty human models was just way past my budget?   Go to the greengrocer.  But then there came all the explanations of why I had to have a visually perfect piece of fruit or vegetable.

But you’re gonna eat it mate, waassrong wiv a little blemish here or there?’

But if you poke around long enough you’ll find the best example in the store and, yes I did find the perfect leek and I ‘made’ a photo, I ‘expressed myself’ and I won the monthly prize for ‘creativity’.



I took this a long time ago, probably on Kodachrome64, on a Sinar 5×4 camera using Broncolor flash. It took me around 6 hours of painstaking tweaking.   I liked it then and I’d like to share it with you now.

Author: Bob Saunders (

Growing Roots

My family always had a greenhouse, it was a revered part of the garden, and if I was lucky I was allowed in while dad re-potted or sowed fresh seed trays.


The Greenhouse

No matter what time of year it was, the greenhouse was always lush and chock full of lusty growth.  The earthy smells, extra humidity, lime dustings on the glass in summer and kerosene heater aromas in winter all contributed to a unique and special place for a very junior apprentice gardener to spend time.

Setting roots

Setting roots

It was here that I learned the importance of roots, in fact the greenhouse is a temple to roots.  This is where they are teased out of twig cuttings, air layers or seeds.  It seems that roots are the start of everything (for humans and plants alike).
The Importance of Roots:
In the greenhouse I learned about soaking seeds, especially runner beans and other legumes, before planting.  Seeds also need a steady supply of warmth and moisture while they germinate – not too much of either, but always constant.  If roots dry out when forming, then they’ll just shrivel up and die very quickly.  Delicate things, roots, especially the very fine ones that grow in amongst the thicker ones.  These are the roots that can break off when you transplant, which is why it’s best to try to carry a tight rootball of soil with the young plant to its new position – this way the fine ones remain intact.
Transplanting seedlings:
Always prepare the hole first – just a bit bigger that the rootball you’re going to move.  Water your seedling first then insert the trowel or garden knife into the damp soil at an angle around the plant on all four sides.  Gently lift it out with a restraining hand on the other side, keeping the plug of soil around the roots intact as you insert it into its new home.  Backfill the hole with potting mix and firm down, followed by a gentle sprinkle of water.  Think of it as taking a sleeping baby from the car seat to its cot.
Transplanting seedlings

Transplanting seedlings

Softwood cuttings:

Hibiscus are perhaps the easiest shrub to propagate from cuttings.  I’ve often broken off a twig on a walk, then plopped it into a glass of water on the windowsill to grow roots.  There are half a dozen beauties in my garden as testament to the technique.   But the proper way to do it is to cut the sample cleanly with a sharp knife, trim off all but a couple of leaves, then place it in a water container that is as light proof as possible, allowing only the leaves to enjoy the sunshine.  This is because roots naturally grow in the dark and, having learned this trick only recently, I can attest that they grow much faster in the dark.
Hibiscus rooting

Hibiscus growing roots quicker in the dark

Author: Bob Saunders (