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.