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Tulip Growing Cycle

by Kimberly Cauvel

Hundreds of acres of fields in the Skagit Valley bloom with tulips each year, calling for a celebration among locals and visitors.

Six generations of the Roozen family have grown the flowers in the valley, and their relatives grew them in Holland as early as the mid-1700s.

Skagit’s mild climate, nearby water and healthy soil are similar to Holland’s, making it an ideal location for growing the flowers, RoozenGaarde and Washington Bulb Co. tulip grower Brent Roozen said.

In the spring, nearly 1,000 acres of fields in Skagit bloom with tulips, daffodils and irises planted by the Roozens’ Washington Bulb Co.

About 1 million flower bulbs are selected and laid out in the fields each fall, then left until the weather warms enough to bring them to bloom between late March and May.

The process requires careful planning because tulips can only be planted in the same fields every six years, Roozen said.

Daffodils and irises, as well as rotation crops like grains and potatoes, are grown each year in between to restore soil structure and nutrients while also protecting the flowers from diseases, which die out naturally over the crop rotation period.

Although Washington Bulb Co. grows other products, the tulips draw the attention.
“We’re more known for our tulips, and for good reason. Our fields are a lot more dramatic, there are more colors,” Roozen said.

Because the tulips are the attraction, but their location in the fields changes each year, the Roozens provide a bloom map on tulips.com.

Daffodils tend to bloom in March, tulips anywhere from early March to April, and irises in late May, but the exact bloom dates depend on the weather. If it’s warmer, the flowers will bloom earlier.

“When the tulips bloom, we always say, ‘That’s according to Mother Nature,’ ” Roozen said.

Yet the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival always runs April 1-30, so Roozen recommends tulip watchers aim for the middle of the month.

While the fields bloom once a year at Mother Nature’s whim, the Roozens can grow the flowering bulbs year-round in the company’s 15 acres of greenhouses.

“You can't control the climate variables outside, whereas in the greenhouse we can control when they're ready to be picked,” Roozen said.

It takes about a month for a full-grown flower to bloom from the time the bulb is planted in the greenhouse, allowing the farm to supply color-themed, fresh-cut tulips for holidays that often fall outside normal tulip blooming time, including Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas, Roozen said.