I don’t know why, but while researching “the history of tulips,” I sit up straighter, and the voice in my head pronounces the phrase in a British-nanny accent, a la Mrs. Doubtfire. Which is odd, since the flower was first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey), and imported into Holland in the sixteenth century. There’s something about tulips: at first right and proper, they turn wanton, wild with abandon, fully open and flouncing their last days, dropping their velvety petals to the ground.
I visited Portland, Oregon last weekend. Usually known for its roses, was the City of Tulips. Everywhere I turned was a riot of brightly colored blooms, reaching straight toward the bright sun, a rare sight in the spring sky.
If you’re like me, by the time tulips are on your radar, it’s too late to plant them to enjoy them in your own garden. According to SF Gate, tulip bulbs require at least 14 weeks of cold weather to help them store the required nutrients to bloom when the weather warms. 14 weeks is three and a half months. So … (This forced me to do actual math, you guys. It was not pretty. I’m a writer, not a wizard.) If you want to see spring flowers, you’ll need to set your Google or Mac calendar alert to plant your bulbs in early or late fall, depending on your zone.
Even though you’re looking ahead to fall, it speaks of spring and hope, to open your calendar so far in advance, and plan on what you will plant, to set a foot in the future. The Farmer’s Almanac advises planting six to eight weeks before a hard frost is expected and when soils are below 60 degrees F. This timing ranges from early autumn (Zone 4) to late autumn (warmer zones). And though tulips prefer a site with full or afternoon sun, when in Zones 7 and 8, choose a shady site or one with morning sun only.
Seems a good time for a tulip festival. The Skagit Valley fest in Northwest Washington state runs through April 30th, and besides the beautiful tulips, there are wineries to visit, a distillery where they make vodka and moonshine, whale watching trips, a street fair featuring arts and crafts from over eight states, and more. Moonshine & tulips. Carpool?