Flowers putting on their annual spring display

The Northern Hemisphere’s vernal equinox occurred on March 20 this year, a most fitting time of year for the opening of one of the Netherlands’ most popular tourist attractions — Keukenhof, a sprawling garden that opened Thursday for the 2013 season.

This year’s theme is “United Kingdom — Land of Great Gardens.” Visitors can enjoy a flower mosaic representation of Big Ben and Tower Bridge. This year’s edition also focuses on small-scale vegetable gardens.

Those with a soft spot for a specific type of bloom might wish to time their visits according to a series of indoor exhibitions showcasing tulips, freesia, gerbera, roses, chrysanthemums, carnations, orchids, lilies and other flowers.

A highlight of Keukenhof’s season is the annual Bollenstreek, or flower parade, scheduled for April 20. The parade departs Noordwijk at 9:30 a.m. and covers a 25-mile stretch en route to Haarlem, arriving at about 9 p.m. The colorfully decorated floats remain on view in Haarlem until 7 p.m. the following day.

Keukenhof is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Adult entry costs 15 euros ($19.50) per person; ages 4-11 pay 7.50 euros. Parking costs 6 euros per vehicle. See

Meanwhile, the Netherlands does not have a monopoly on tulips. Another city famous for its tulip displays is Morges, Switzerland.

Although the official start date of the city’s annual tulip festival is March 29, the tulips generally begin to bloom in mid-April. There’s no charge to visit the lakeside park that hosts the festival through May 13.

Belgium’s flowery welcome to spring takes place in Tournai annually on Good Friday, which falls on March 29 this year. A flower market with more than 100 vendors attracts crowds from far and wide and runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Throughout Germany, urban landscapes are brightened by the appearance of Gartenschau, or landscape exhibitions. Hamburg’s new international garden show debuts April 26 and features roughly 80 gardens planted on nearly 250 acres on an island in the Elbe River. Learn more at, which has an English option.

Seas of blossoms can be enjoyed closer to the places many call home. Schwetzingen Palace claims to have the most cherry trees in a single location outside of Japan; look for these to reach their peak blossoming beauty anywhere between March and May.

Kaiserslautern’s Gartenschau is already open for the season, and the outdoor gardens of Ludwigsburg Palace open Friday, March 22.

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