(Ok, these are hyacinths, not tulips)

The song might say Tulips from Amsterdam but in fact they are grown in the sandy dune area between Haarlem and The Hague known as the bollenstreek - bulb stretch - centred on Lisse. The season runs from around Easter with the daffodils and hyancinths to the beginning of May and the colours are blinding on a sunny day.

Most tulips are grown for the bulbs not the flowers, which get picked off and left in big heaps at the edge of the fields. If you see tulips in expensive flower shops, they may well have come from France.

The big bargain bunches you can buy on markets are cheap for a good reason and need a lot of loving care. Plunge them into cold water while still in the paper for a good few hours, then slice a few centimetres off the bottom of each stalk. My mother-in-law swears that putting pin prick in each just under the bloom will stop them growing too long and going floppy while in the vase.

I like to leave tulips for weeks until the petals are all dried up and twisted. They make wonderful shapes.