Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tulips

While in Washington, I thought I might see about stopping by the Holland America Bulb Farms for some tulip eye candy.  It turns out it's just down the street from the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens!  It wasn't a weekend, so their Tulip Festival was not officially up and running.  But their show garden was open, and their gift shop proved to have a huge walk-in refrigerator stuffed to the gills with gorgeous cut tulips in prime condition at wonderful prices.  

When we got home, we watched the PBS show based on the famous Michael Pollan book, "Botany of Desire", which includes a segment on tulips and the Tulip Mania of the 1600s in Holland.  Jasper thought it was quite intriguing that this seemingly innocuous flower could hold such secrets.  Also a segment on modern tulip farming provided a likely explanation for something I wondered about while visiting Holland America.  It's a bulb farm, yet aside from the show garden, the bright green fields all around showed not a sign of a flower.  I wondered where they were growing the rest of their tulips.  In the film,  workers seemingly floating through the air in front of a tractor as it rides through the fields.  They are suspended face down, attached to platforms, wielding scissors and cutting off all the flowerheads as the tractor slowly moves forward.  They explain that when tulips are grown for their bulbs, instead of for cut flowers, the flowerheads are cut off so more of the plant's energy is devoted to growing a strong bulb.  So the next time we visit a tulip farm, I'll take a closer look to see if the homogeneously green fields all around us are actually tulip plants.

Cut tulip flowers are one of the few cut flowers that actually continue to grow.  Of course we all observe this when we bring home tulips, but I somehow never realized that's what actually happens. Unlike other flowers, it makes a big difference where they are placed because they will grow and stretch quite rapidly towards a window.

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