Visions of tulips dance in my head

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

I have a dream. It’s a vision, really, because I can see it so very clearly in my mind’s eye.

In the spring of 2019, cars will be lining up to get into the subdivision where I live. Word will spread via KnoxTnToday and Facebook, and HGTV will be knocking on my door.


“The tulips!” they will all say. “How beautiful! How glorious! However did you…”

I will be modest, but proud. “Oh, just a few bulbs I picked up on our travels,” I will say, cooling myself with my fan as my Downton Abbey gown flows around me. “They do quite nicely here in Tennessee, don’t you think?”

And then I will know that I, Sherri Gardner Howell, will have broken the curse of my black thumb.

My husband and I just spent six glorious days in Amsterdam. April is absolutely the best time to go to Holland. The weather was beautiful, and the tulips were beyond description. To see the tulips, we took a trip to Keukenhof Gardens, appropriately called “the Garden of Europe” in Lissa, Holland.

The gardens cover 79 acres and are home to approximately 7 million flower bulbs, mostly tulips,

Examples of the rows of colorful tulips at Keukenhof Gardens in Lissa, Holland

but some daffodils and hyacinths. They pay homage to all styles of gardens – from the meandering landscape English gardens to water gardens, country style and a Japanese garden. Outside of Keukenhof but visible from the gardens are privately-owned fields of tulips of every color imaginable. Every year, more than 1 million visitors come to Keukenhof – all between mid-March and early May.

The trip to Keukenhof was on my “must do” list for Amsterdam, thanks to photos my younger son, Brett, brought home from his semester-abroad in Holland. My husband was a bit surprised, as I am not usually a garden person. I will spend an hour in front of a Monet painting, but skirt the outside of Biltmore Gardens, retiring to tea on the porch while he lingers and marvels at the landscaping.

But Keukenhof inspired me. It really is hard to describe how beautiful those colorful tulips waving in the gentle breezes are. The color schemes the gardeners created were amazing. As I sat beneath the windmill, waiting to board a little boat for a canal tour, I plotted my own Keukenhof garden.

As we prepared to leave the gardens, I took the first step. “I don’t have a souvenir from here,” I innocently told my husband. “Let’s stop here…”

As I pored through the book of bulbs, taking note of color and height and figuring out all those little symbols like sun/partial sun/shade next to the bulbs, I saw my vision take shape.

Never mind that the last time I planted bulbs, I planted them in more mulch than dirt and the moles ate them.

Never mind that I have been known to plant bulbs upside down, too early and in too much shade.

I have 48 orange and 48 white bulbs being shipped to me straight from Keukenhof in September. Orange and White. In Knoxville. Planted in September.

It’s destiny.

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