Despite what you might think, the tulip originated in Turkey and didn’t get to Holland until the sixteenth century. To say that the Dutch went a little crazy for the new flower is an understatement. During a period in the 1600s, known as Tulip Mania, people were scrambling to buy the most prized rare bulbs. They invested huge sums of money in tulips. The demand grew. Prices skyrocketed. Bulbs became as valuable as money in Holland, and, in fact, were used as money for a while.
Can you imagine if we used flowers as currency today? Gardens would flourish. We’d probably need guard dogs around our gardens and big chain link fences. That wouldn’t be much fun after all.
But, back to tulips. They may not pass for money today, but they certainly help bring the cash to the growers. In Washington’s Skagit Valley, tourists converge to see thousands of tulips and leave their cash behind as they pay for parking, take home flowers and bulbs and buy assorted merchandise.
Each April, the Skagit Tulip Festival welcomes flower fans to visit the fields of astonishing color. Rows and rows of red, yellow, orange, pink and purple petals stretch to the horizon. For a few weeks, the area is transformed to a little bit of Holland. There is an actual connection between this region and Holland. One of the bulb-growing companies, RoozenGarde, is run by the Roozen family, which has grown tulips in Holland since the seventeenth century.
People drive for hours to experience the spectacle in the fields outside of Mt. Vernon, Washington. They photograph each other against the painted landscape. They stand, they crouch, they smile.
Flowers bring such joy to us. What it is about them that is so captivating? The colors? The shapes? The fragrance? Of course, tulips have no fragrance. And one tulip is pretty, but not very exciting. In this case, we can be pretty certain that the visual effect of huge swaths of color over hundreds of acres is the irresistible thing. Bulb growers manage more than 1,000 acres in the Skagit for tulips, daffodils and irises.
But the tulips are not there just for their beauty. It’s a business, after all. As the blooms begin to fade, the growers “top” them, cutting off the very thing that draws the crowds. The stems and leaves are left behind to feed the bulbs. Nature’s beauty is sometimes fleeting. If we’re lucky, we’ve brought a few bunches back to transport a tiny bit of the fields to our homes.