Tulips: A world of color in a bulb

Slip on your wooden shoes and start tilting at windmills because April is the month for tulips and this week I am honored to be in the land of Windmills, wooden shoes and tulips. Acres and acres of tulips. Red tulips, yellow tulips, bi-colored tulips and striped tulips.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 3:38pm
  • News

Slip on your wooden shoes and start tilting at windmills because April is the month for tulips and this week I am honored to be in the land of Windmills, wooden shoes and tulips. Acres and acres of tulips. Red tulips, yellow tulips, bi-colored tulips and striped tulips.

Holland is hosting an international bulb symposium and journalists from all over the world are meeting to learn the latest dirt about tulips – and iris, daffodils, hyacinths and fields of other bulbs.

The best part about traveling in Europe and enjoying gardens is that horticulturists all speak the same language when it comes to plants. Latin plant names are the same in Spanish, Dutch, English, German and Italian. (They are the same in Chinese, Greek and Japanese as well, but I haven’t met any horticulturists from those countries just yet.)

The Netherlands is the original center of the bulb-growing universe. Not that tulips, daffodils and the other spring beauties are native to this part of the world. Most bulbs were discovered in Turkey and part of the Middle East and then brought back to Europe during the age of exploration by new plant hunters. The climate, soil and raised growing beds of the Netherlands dike system made for perfect tulip growing conditions and by the 1600s tulip-growing and tulip-selling had turned into Tulipmania. Fortunes were made and spectacular bankruptcies were suffered all in the game of tulip-bulb speculation.

Here’s a true story. In 1637 a single tulip bulb (a lovely red and white mix called “Admiral Lieffkens”) was sold for 4,400 guilders. Enough to buy an estate. A very large fortune – for a single bulb. The story of the tulip is a story of greed, desire, passion and anguish. The month of April would not be spring without tulips.

I’ll write more about the Netherlands next month in this column. Right now there are tulips blooming outside and it is time to pay homage.

No need to tip-toe around the facts, here are five tulip-growing tips.

1 A tulip bulb contains an already-formed flower inside its papery brown skin when you plant it in the fall. You don’t need to feed it or, in our climate, to water it during the winter.

2 Deer and slugs love tulips as much as we do. If you wake up one morning and see stems but no flowers, suspect there are some happy deer in the neighborhood. If the flower petals are full of holes, look for slugs.

3 The biggest reason for tulip distress and death is poor drainage. Tulips hate wet feet. Plant them in rock gardens, raised beds, container gardens and on hillsides. Don’t plant them in low, wet spots.

4 When your tulips start to fade you can cut off the flower but leave the foliage alone if you want your tulips to bloom next year. The fading greens are making next year’s flower. After they bloom is a good time fertilize your tulips.

5 Enjoy tulips as cut flowers indoors and celebrate that this is the only cut flower that will continue to grow taller after it is cut. The stems of cut tulips also will sway slowly as they bend toward the light. Give your cut tulips enough room in a vase to spread out and dance. Any flowers that keeps on moving and growing even after it’s been cut from the roots deserves to be honored.

Tulip bulbs don’t cost a life’s fortune anymore, but they’re still priceless icons of this glorious spring season.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

t
Peter Rogoff to step down as Sound Transit CEO in 2022

Became CEO in 2016; search for replacement to begin

File photo/Sound Publishing
Ban on single-use plastic bags in WA begins Oct. 1

Shoppers will have the choice to pay for a reusable plastic or recycled paper bag.

Photos from Emma Artz Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/emma__artz/?hl=en
Juanita HS student is one of the best downhill mountain bike racers in the world

Emma Artz represented the US in one of the most difficult bike races, placing in top-15.

file photo
Housing and finance insiders call for subsidized housing families can own, instead of rent

Advocates say increasing homeownership will strengthen the community, build intergenerational wealth

Screenshot taken from Rosa Parks Elementary School website.
Eastside school wins National Blue Ribbon honor

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Redmond is the only Washington school to win.

Screenshot taken of a King County video showing Wilburton Trestle
King County’s Eastside to receive major multi-modal transportation investment

Private and public investors will help build a regional biking and walking trail to mitigate traffic

Co-owners Sarah Cassidy and Luke Woodward stand in front of The Grange (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Co-owners Sarah Cassidy and Luke Woodward stand in front of The Grange (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
How a King County restaurant and farm work together to make a true farm-to-table experience

The Grange prepares sustainably produced meals pulled from the soil of the Snoqualmie Valley.

Artist rendering of new school classrooms and amenities (courtesy of BASIS Independent Bellevue)
Bellevue to have new private school by 2022 school year

The school will focus on having specialized subject teachers and high staff-to-student ratio.

Most Read