Every year, not far from here, farmers plant, tend and harvest hundreds of thousands of iris, daffodil and tulip bulbs.
All the information a person needs can be found at the Tulip Festival site, including a map of the various fields indicating where the flowers can be found.
Having read Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire (which covers four crops, including the tulip),
and watched the PBS program based on the book, I’ve become more interested in this particular plant. In an NPR interview, Pollan talks about the tulip, “GWEN IFILL: Well, also, in talking about… You talk about the apple, but then you talk about the tulip, which is this icy, perfect, beautiful flower but yet drove people to madness in Holland. MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, the story of the tulip is kind of amazing. I mean, this was the, tulip mania you’re referring to in Holland, and it was a… Which people are always comparing to the Internet mania, and there are a lot of interesting parallels. Although I’m more sympathetic to the Dutch than I am to the NASDAQ traders, because at least, you know, there was something beautiful here, something new, something… Something, not just a piece of paper. And they were… It was a new flower and they went absolutely mad for it. And its beauty was like we had never seen anything like it before, and…,” On a Tuesday afternoon (not the best time for photographing flowers), my mother-in-law, daughter and I took exit 226 from Highway 20 and followed the conspicuous “Tulip Route” signs. We eventually reached a gravel parking lot adjacent RoozenGaarde, RoseGarden in Dutch, walked along a spectacularly colorful flower-lined path,
paid five bucks each admission, and entered the grounds. On the way, I accidentally took a shot that provides a perfect example of poor photo planning. The admission price sign lies smack dab in the center between the plants and the persons!
The weather was sunny but breezy, and we walked past a huge variety of tulips in bloom and headed straight for the fields.
Signs indicated that to protect the plants, persons were not allowed to enter the fields (so we had to forgo tip toeing). A few oblivious (or defiant) folks did so anyway, but bystanders had hundreds of feet of perfect places to get great shots of tulips. In fact, it was overwhelming. I’d never seen so many flowers in bloom.
According to the RoozenGaarde pamphlet, the garden is planted with over a quarter of a million bulbs and over 150 flower varieties. It also claims, “The Roozen family business of growing Tulips, Daffodils, and Irises is the largest in the world, covering Skagit Valley with more than 1000 acres of field blooms and 15 acres of greenhouses.” Like the other visitors, we wandered around the edges of the field, avoiding occasional puddles (while toddlers waded right in). Finally, we left the fields and made our way through the garden area near the entrance, which contained a much greater variety. Some, like these, looked like peonies.
Small signs indicated the name of each variety. Inside a tent, patrons purchased tulips to take home. We could have spent hours there photographing flowers, but the windy weather felt kind of cold. The petals were pretty, but we paid attention to the insides too.
After about half an hour, we left, observing flower fields as we made our way back to Highway 20. The official Bloom Map was accurate. The irises and some of the daffodils were done, while the tulips were in perfect bloom.
After nearly a week of longing for another look (especially at the various varieties), I returned at 9:30 on a Monday morning, when the sun provides a gentle that is perfect for taking photos. The parking lot was quickly filling, so I grabbed the ticket I’d just bought at a RoozenGaarde field at which I’d stopped along the way,
walked to the booth, waited in line for a few minutes, handed my ticket to the cashier (the five bucks gains you entry to any open parking lot that RG owns) and entered tulip lover’s heaven.
This time, I skipped the fields (having just spent a few minutes at one a couple of miles away) and spent the entire time admiring flowers in the well-planned tulip-filled (with a few daffodils) flower beds along with about a zillion other persons doing same. This time, I paid better attention to the names,
and enjoyed the flower plot overviews where families and friends wandered along taking photos of the flowers and themselves.
Again, I couldn’t get past the peony look-alikes,
or pretty much anything else.
Before I left, I remembered the white-edged purple tulips I’d seen last time, tracked them down and took a couple of photos before departing the gardens…reluctantly. In the future, I plan to visit every year, probably multiple times.
Although the site indicates that the festival runs the entire month of April, those who wait until the end may miss out on the best blooms. My advice: go soon and arrive at 9:00 am when the gates open to get the best photo-friendly sunlight and beat the 10 o’clock rush.