At first glance, it looks like a giant child armed with a box of crayons has been set loose upon the landscape. Yet far from being a child's sketchbook, this is, in fact, the northern Netherlands in the middle of tulip season. The Dutch landscape in May is a kaleidoscope of color as the tulips burst into life. The bulbs are planted in late October and early November. More than three billion tulips are grown each year and two-thirds of the vibrant blooms are exported, mostly to the U.S. and Germany.
Their dazzling colors are thanks to the years in the 17th century when tulip mania swept the globe and the most eye-catching specimens changed hands for a small fortune. But like a Rainbow, this colorful landscape is a short-lived phenomenon. When the flowers are gone, the land will be cultivated for a rather more mundane crop of vegetables. The Netherlands produce more than nine million bulbs a year.