Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tulip Time Again

We are fortunate to live close to the internationally known Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. We go most years. Tulips remind me of my grandmother, Bernice "Bunny" Clewley Dorr.

When I was a child my grandparents built a cabin on Green Lake in Maine. Our family spent many happy days there. She had a little garden there that my grandfather fenced in for her. Every year my grandmother planted tulips. Every year the deer jumped the fence and ate them. She loved tulips!

We still visit with family on the lake, but a few doors down from the old property every year. The garden is no longer there, but every time I walk past where it was I imagine her gardening there.

So Nan, this one is for you!

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

This is the 32nd year of the festival. It is held on a previously set date and accompanied by many community activities. Unfortunately the tulips bloomed very early this year which put the blooming fields and the festival a bit out of sync, but everyone still calls the time that all the flowers are blooming the Festival.

The valley was first settled in the 1860s. The settlers built dikes to reclaim the flatlands from frequently flooding and an agricultural economy grew. In the nearby mountains, logging was a big industry and the ocean provided fishing. 

The scenery in the Skagit County is spectacular. The Skagit River comes out of the Cascade Range above the valley. It has salmon runs every year and in December - January every year you can see the Bald Eagles who arrive in the area for food. It is not unusual to see 100 or more Bald Eagles on the same day. We have floated the river with a guide to see them from the river and it is a chilly but very rewarding experience.

The town of La Connor, an old fishing village, is the closest one to the tulip festival. It is a great place to eat lunch and wander around looking at the numerous artists shops. It is on the Swinomish Channel. Facing the town is the Swinomish Reservation, a casino is not far away. The views of the San Juan Islands and the Puget Sound are incredible. In good weather, the blue, blue sky, the dark blue water and the green hills and islands are very picturesque.

Picture of San Juan Islands from nearby Deception Pass

The picture above is of the islands that are off the coast of the Skagit Valley. The beach is at Deception Pass to the south of the Skagit Valley.

The valley is filled with historical sites, including many old barns. The library has a driving tour of the old barns left in the county.

In the 20th century the valley became famous for growing seed stock and selling the seeds, and for its bulbs. The number of bulb growers has declined but the fields are still vast and beautiful. There are two main sites to visit to see displays, Roozengaarde and Tulip Town. We prefer Roozengaarde for the  4 acres of carefully designed and planted displays. One can also drive around the valley and see all the fields in bloom and take pictures from the edges of the fields.

The following history of the company is from their website.

William Roozen emigrated from Holland in 1947 with years of experience in the bulb industry. He had a good back, strong hands, and a heart pulsing with dreams. Roozen started a bulb farm on five acres of land, holding meetings in a garage and toiling long hours beside a few hired hands. He saved money by buying used tractors and farm equipment.
Today, Roozen's small company has grown to be the largest tulip-bulb grower in the country and one of the largest employers in the Skagit Valley. The flower industry in the Skagit Valley has become an important element of the county's economy.
The Roozen family's hard work ethic spans at least six generations. The family first began raising tulips in Holland in the mid-1700's.
In the Skagit Valley, Roozen (which means "roses" in Dutch) worked for other farmers before setting off on his own in 1950. Five years later, he purchased the Washington Bulb Co., founded by two of the area's first bulb farmers, Joe Berger and Cornelius Roozekrans. The Washington Bulb Co. now farms about 2,000 acres of land.
The family children and grandchildren now run the business.

Take the time to explore the sights of the surrounding area and have lunch in La Connor - we always do. This is our favorite place there for lunch.

About once a year we go camping at Deception Pass State Park which is the most beautiful park in the state of Washington. It is just past the Skagit Valley on Whidbey Island. You can get to the Island from I-5 on the north end or by taking the ferry on the south end. There are many things to see and do on beautiful Whidbey Island. You can also take a boat tour of Deception Pass.

All these pictures are from Roozengaarde. There is a shop for cut flowers, a food tent and a very nice (and crowded gift shop).

I separated the pictures into 3 slide shows. The first one is of the area around the garden including the snow on the mountains above.
The second singles out individual flowers and the third is shots of the masses of color. Instead of looking up each flower myself to get the name that Roozengaarde uses for it here is the catalog of tulips that you can explore for yourself. The varieties and colors are amazing!

Views of the Garden Setting


Individual Tulips


Masses of Color


An outing to the Skagit Valley is always worth it, whether or not the tulips are blooming.
Next blog will be from Vancouver, British Columbia.
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