Good News and the Hill Billy Tulip Festival
We’re starting today off with good news: the Tulips, Daffodils, and other spring-blooming flower bulbs are available again in the Fluwel webshop. This is the first time for you to be able to order spring-blooming bulbs at the same time as summer-blooming bulbs.
Tulip Beauty Trend
We figured we would try this way of ordering some time. There’s a Dutch saying that goes “when there’s music, you have to dance”, and when the flower fields are in full bloom, it’s music to your garden, and we have to answer to lots of people who are asking if the flower bulbs for spring can be ordered yet. So that’s why we wanted to see if people might prefer ordering their flowers earlier, when they can still see the fields in their full glory and be inspired by that. Do keep in mind that ordering now means you preorder your bulbs, and they will be delivered to you in October. This is because we want to keep them in our warehouse and store them in ideal circumstances, so that when you get them, you do not have to store them in your garage or shed, and can plant them right away. You can also still order Dahlias during the coming weeks, and those will be sent to you right away. If you order both Dahlias and flowers that will be delivered in October, you only have to pay for shipping once.
Daffodil Queen of the North
Then a tip for those of you who keep up with new introductions: don’t order everything for spring right now, as I’ll be adding things that I might encounter later on this spring to the web shop still. I will let you know when the assortment is complete for the season. I expect that will be sometime around late May.
Now, onto my adventures for this week. That’s much nicer to tell you about than practicalities about the web shop, in my opinion. I always feel like an actual story is more fun to you as well, given that you’re reading this, so you probably already know that I sell flower bulbs and don’t need me to tell you that. If there are any shop-related announcements, you’ll find them at either the beginning or the end of the newsletters. So, this week: the Hill Billy Tulip Festival.
Some time ago, I received an email from our American customer and friend Baker Creek, asking me to be a speaker at their Tulip Festival. It would be on April 10, during the Easter Holidays. My first reaction was obviously ‘No, then my own Daffodils are in full bloom, and I can’t leave them for you’, but then I thought about it some more and realized that if I always stayed here during spring, then I would never see where my flowers are sent to every year, which is no fun at all, either. Also, Baker Creek decided last year to plant 100 of every tulip we offer in our webshop, so it would actually be really nice to see all of them in bloom together. After some more consideration, I decided to accept their offer, and they flew me out to Chicago to then go on to a flight to the tiny airport of Springfield, Missouri. Places in the States have an airport even though no one lives there, I swear to you. Always weird for us Europeans to see, our countries don’t really have that in the same capacity.
Tulip Wild Romance
So I went to the Springfield Airport, and then I had to drive another hour in the most empty direction possible. Beautiful nature all around, Radio Ozarks playing in the car, finding out that they play nothing but old country hits. Motorways can be completely empty in the USA in a way that you will never encounter in western Europe, you can go for hours without having to adjust your cruise control even once. The Ozarks will just continue to surround you, it’s a mountain area in the middle of the USA and the people there are nice and friendly. They called themselves Hill Billy to me, which I found funny, and they are a no-nonsense kind of people who love hard work and enjoy nature. And, of course, if there is something to celebrate, they do that as well.
Lisa from Baker Creek had emailed me that she reserved me a cabin at Mansfield Cabins. Mansfield has a gas station, a Dollar Tree supermarket, a few homes, and a T-crossing, and that’s kind of it. I did see a tire repair garage, but I didn’t have any reason to go there, so I’ve no idea if it was actually inhabited or not. For the Mansfield Cabins I had to go left on that T-crossing, exit the village, go over the hill, and then encounter nothing until I saw a house somewhere. Thank God there was a person there, and it even turned out to be Jeff, the owner of the promised Cabins. I followed him for another kilometer through nothing and then we actually arrived.
Daffodil Sizzling Fire
Very beautifully located in what they called the sticks was a nice little cabin. The first thing I read was its instructions: “We have various stinging and biting insects in the country.” Sounded good to me, middle of nowhere, silence all around, it promised to be a good night’s sleep. In the evening I could hear an entire orchestra of hundreds of crickets and other forest sounds. The next day I went to Baker Creek early, I figured I’d have some time to catch up with everyone there before it was my turn to talk. The drive to Baker Creek was as absurd as the drive to the Cabins: you’re just not used to that kind of emptiness. Somewhere along the road there is one sign with Baker Creek Village and if you miss it, that’s on you. You make the turn the sign tells you to and then you drive for so long that at one point you think, I’ll have to turn around, the wind must have blown the sign into another direction, but no, suddenly signs of life appear out of thin air. There are greenhouses, growing fields, and thousands of Daffodils planted on the side of the road as well.
Catching up was not happening today: dozens of stand holders were busy setting up their products and goods and the first visitors were already arriving. A few hours later, 3000 cars were parked in the fields surrounding Baker Creek Village. Village, you think? Yes, at Baker Creek, they recreated an actual historic little town that seems to come straight out of a Western film. Surrounding their main square, they have renovated authentic houses from a bakery, blacksmith, apothecary, etcetera. Right in the middle of it all they have gardens in which they have planted all our tulips. It looked gorgeous, especially with all the people there who came over to enjoy them.
At 1 in the afternoon, my talk was supposed to happen, and when I came into the venue there were already 400 people waiting for me. I’m not exactly a practiced speaker, I never really give any talks, and I had not expected such a crowd, so the first thing I told them was ‘you guys scare the shit out of me.’ That went over well and when the ice was broken my hour was up before I even realized it.
Something I discovered during this trip is how little I actually know of flower bulbs and how they behave. I know the flower bulbs in The Netherlands, but over there in the middle of the USA, it’s a totally different story, and that probably goes for other parts of Europe, too. After the winter that they had in Missouri, Daffodils that I would consider ‘late-blooming’ were at their peak at the same time as Daffodils that I would say should be at least two weeks ahead of them. A Daffodil like Popeye, an early bloomer to me, could be seen at the same time as the extremely late-blooming Daffodil April Queen.
I saw the same thing with the Tulips. Really things I would never have thought possible. I saw Shirley Double, for me a late Tulip, bloom at the same time as early bloomers like Salmon Impression and Lady van Eyk.
Looking back, I am extremely happy to have accepted the invitation to the Baker Creek Tulip Festival. I saw with my own eyes that my own stories of when you can expect certain flowers to bloom and when they’ll be at their best are absolute nonsense when you move a few thousand kilometers, and it was a nice reality check. I also really enjoyed speaking to the different garden- and flower enthusiasts who sought me out after my talk. They also confirmed that their flowers bloomed at totally different times than I predicted to them. And they told me it was not just timing: the height they reached and the colors they displayed was also sometimes vastly different than what they show in the soil of my little piece of Netherlands. Take Daffodil Precocious: she will never reach that dark color that I like so much if you plant her somewhere with a much higher intensity of light and a warmer temperature. It’s nice to see that nature doesn’t let herself be confined like that. And one of the most important things does seem to be the same everywhere: varieties that I describe as coming back for multiple years after planting do just that. To further confirm that, we have decided to plant a large number of Daffodils at Baker Creek, 100 bulbs of every variety, so that I can tell you which flowers actually work best in the warmer areas.
While writing this story I’m at a bar at Chicago O’Hare airport. There is a handsome man behind the bar with an impressive mustache who is talking to everyone passing by, and a nice elderly lady is advising me to try a Pinot Noir from California. There’s also one of those random pianos that you see in public transport places, and we get lucky and have a young guy sitting down who is actually quite good and who entertains us all with some music. The bar is one of those typical airport ones that everyone just passes by the whole time, but now people are stopping to listen to this piano man. That, in combination with a glass of wine, seems to me the perfect way to end a short holiday.
Carlos van der Veek