Thomas White Global Investing
Netherlands Stamp
August 8, 2008
A Postcard from the Netherlands
Netherlands: Where the Earth Laughs in Flowers…

The Dutch exploited “Tulipomania” until the market bubble collapsed in 1637. At the height of the craze, the rarest tulip varieties were exchanged for land, livestock, and even houses. Today, a bunch of five bulbs of these rare beauties will cost about $9.

A rainbow on earth. Bands of red, orange, white and yellow stretch across the countryside, interspersed with dusty browns and emerald greens. Parsing the field in the world’s largest flower garden in Keukenhof, Netherlands, are several varieties of tulips. These geoponique beauties make the economy bloom, enticing scores of visitors, raking in revenue from exports and even from flower auctions.

Situated in southern Holland near the town of Lisse, Keukenhof is a 12.9-acre park that opened in1949. Keukenhof, literally meaning kitchen garden, was the former herb and vegetable garden of Jacoba van Beieren, a 15th century Countess of Holland. Interestingly, tulips were never originally from the Netherlands, but were brought in from Constantinople around the 16th century. Indeed, the word “tulip” is derived from the word “tuliban”, meaning turban. When Dutch painters captured the tulips’ beauty in still life paintings during the time, “tulipomania” was set afire, lasting until its collapse in the 17th century.

The Netherlands claims fame as the world’s largest exporter of flowers including narcissus, hyacinths and Gladioli. Lisse exports bulbs to more than a 100 countries all over the world. The country’s exports exceed two billion bulbs each year, with most of them going to the U.S., followed by Japan and Germany. Today, more than 90 growers plant about seven million bulbs at Keukenhof, with about 4.5 million of them comprised of tulips.

Lisse is a crowd puller, attracting about 800,000 people annually, which is about 3.3% of the 25.4 million visitors who arrive in the Netherlands. The poet E. E. Cummings wrote that the earth laughs in flowers. And, it is the Netherlands or the low-lying lands, which may bring his image alive.

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