Fields of gold (and pink, and orange, and blue...)

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The Independent Online

The splendour of the Dutch countryside, where millions of tulips are in bloom lighting up the roads.

The colours are laid out in row after row of flowers stretching into the distance, with farmers planning to sell them for huge profits. The fields begin to bloom in March with crocuses, but it is not until April that the tulips emerge.

The tulip has long been a symbol of the Netherlands. Every year thousands of tourists drive through the countryside and catch a glimpse of the flowers, which come in lily-flowered, Rembrandt and parrot types.

Believed to have been brought to western Europe from the Ottoman Empire, the flowers were a huge hit and at one point in the 17th century became a must-have, with prices rising steeply. Nowadays prices are cheaper and every year the Netherlands grows more than three billion tulips, with two-thirds being exported, many millions to the UK.

There are many tulip festivals across the country, including the world's largest display of the glowing flowers at Keukenhof.

Sadly they will only bloom for part of the year, and by late summer most will be fading away. In the winter months much of the land is used for growing vegetables.

Thousands of tulips in the UK have died this year as the early heatwave has caused them to wilt, including 28,000 red tulips in front of Buckingham Palace which are to be pruned before the royal wedding.