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. 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.

  • Thursday, April 10, 2008 8:19pm
  • News

Tulips attract with their delightful colors

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 tiptoe 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 to 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 lights. 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.

Send questions for Marianne Binetti to P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, WA 98022. For a personal reply, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Her e-mail address is mariannebinetti@comcast.net.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

Photo courtesy of Urban Family.
Local groups pull together to support 12,000 families during pandemic

Renton Innovation Zone Partnership hit the ground running, working with several organizations to help vulnerable Skyway and Highlands families with food, masks and more.

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

Governor Jay Inslee smiles and laughs Sept. 3, 2019, during a speech at the Lynnwood Link Extension groundbreaking in Lynnwood. A Thurston County judge ruled he exceeded his authority when he vetoed single sentences in the state transportation budget in 2019. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)
Judge invalidates Gov. Inslee’s veto in roads budget

Lawmakers said the governor crossed a constitutional line.

Photo from the scene of a drive-by shooting at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. Photo by David Nelson.
Drive-by shooting at Coulon Park Tuesday interrupted memorial

Two were shot, one with life threatening injuries. Renton Police Department is investigating.

Most Read