German first lady opens annual Keukenhof flower show

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Germany's First Lady Bettina Wulff opened the 62nd annual flower show at Keukenhof, the world's largest bulb garden, in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Flanked by her husband, President Christian Wulff and Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Bettina Wulf used champagne to christen a newly bred red-and-yellow tulip named after her.

This year's exhibition, which officially opens on Thursday and runs until May 20, is themed: "Germany: Land of Poets and Philosophers", and has at its heart a 23-metre (75-foot) by 13-metre flower mosaic of Berlin's famous Brandenburg Gate, reconstructed with more than 100,000 flowering bulbs.

The 32-hectare (80-acre) Keukenhof gardens in Lisse in the western Netherlands is a popular tourist attraction and claims to be one of the most photographed spots in the world.

Lying in the heart of "bulb country", between Amsterdam and The Hague, it transforms into a multi-colour feast for the eye every spring when seven million bulbs, among them 4.5 million tulips of a thousand varieties, start flowering.

About 800,000 people visit the park every year, about 135,000 of them from Germany in 2010.

Its neighbour to the east is also the Netherlands' biggest export market for flowering bulbs.

The Netherlands is the world's biggest flower exporter, with 10 billion Dutch tulip bulbs produced every year -- 70 percent of total world yield.

The total bulb-growing area covers more than 20,000 hectares (49,500 acres), equivalent to 40,000 football fields.

© 2011 AFP

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