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Keukenhof tulipsAs winter fades we expect to see snowdrops, then daffodils and finally tulips around about late March. But not in the US. One tulip festival begins in just a fortnight.

Think San Francisco and gardens or tulips are not the first things that will spring to your mind. If we think of tulips at all, then thoughts turn to Holland and the annual Keukenhof display just a few miles from the centre of Amsterdam. But on Pier 39 of all incongruous places, you will find a stunning display of tulips which will last for just eight days.

Called Tulipmania, more than 39,000 (at Pier 39 – get it?) blooming tulips and seasonal garden favourites will be available to see as San Francisco provides yet another tourist attraction. You can wander around at your own leisure or take a tour which begins every day at 10am.

The red, orange and salmon-coloured tulips are the first of twenty different varieties that shoot forth but the Tulipmania is a misleading term as other plants are on display to complement the tulip. There are Iceland yellow poppies, primroses, hyacinths, narcissi, parsley and lettuces growing as well. Yes, I did say parsley and lettuces. These are added for colour giving a strong, vibrant green to the mainly reds, yellows and oranges.

Most of the bulbs come from Holland which probably means that many bulbs were developed and grown by those same Dutch growers who will be at Keukenhof from late March to May. The remainder come from the Mt Hood area in Washington state which, at the moment has rather a lot of snow on  the ground which means you’ll be more likely to see a Mt Hood tulip in San Francisco before you see them locally.

Don’t think that Pier 39 is given over entirely to plants. It still has the usual visitor attractions such as the sea lions languishing on the wooden floats in the winter sunshine, the views of Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge, the nearly 100 shops and 14 restaurants where you can get some of the thickest and best clam chowder outside of Maine on the east coast of the country.

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