Tulips…The Campaigners for Spring


Is it just me, or is it starting to feel like winter is really trying to stick around this year? I know the conversation around my dinner table seems to constantly have the phrase "I'm so tired of being cold" thrown in at some point…but being a Native Texan, I think I'm just spoiled.Luckily, my job allows for the occasional side-trip into another season altogether. Regardless of what Mother Nature is brewing up, I'm typically living about six weeks to ten weeks in the future. So while it's looking pretty miserable outside my office window right now, I've got a true campaigner for spring on my mind…tulips!

It's hard to imagine the change in seasons without the quietly flamboyant face of a Novelty, the gentle giant of French, or the nostalgic joy of a Standard tulip greeting the morning sun across your breakfast table. It's easy to admire the amazing attributes of a tulip, but what about the farms that grow them? Who are the people behind the joy we place in our vase?

Lane DeVries, President and CEO of The Sun Valley Group

Whole Foods Market sources from a variety of farms and growers that offer up floral delights unlike any other, and tulips are no exception. Allow me a moment to introduce you to two of our partners in bringing spring to life; one from the West coast and one from the East.The Sun Valley Group in California is one of the largest flower growing operations in the United States and has been in business for 61 years. Founded as "Sun Valley Bulb Farm" in Oregon by a high school agriculture teacher and one of his students, it expanded to the Northern California coastal town of Arcata in 1969. Lane DeVries partnered with two Dutch bulb cultivars in purchasing Sun Valley in 1991 and changed the name to Sun Valley Floral Farms.

A fourth generation grower, Lane was born in the Netherlands and received his B.S. degree in Horticulture in Holland, before immigrating to the United States. Securing a job at Sun Valley, Lane came to Arcata and built the first Dutch Glass greenhouse. Soon after, he became the greenhouse manager, and in 1988 was promoted to General Manager. The California coasts' unique climate really comes in handy, especially when it comes to tulips. Here, they are able to utilize the mild winters, cool summers, generous humidity, and coastally moderate sunlight.

Picking Tulips - The Sun Valley Group, Arcata California

The glasshouse environments provide the greatest degree of accuracy for growing tulips as they can mimic an early spring season at any time of the year, and the process of going from bulb to bloom typically takes about 21 days. To the folks at The Sun Valley Group, harvesting these tulips is a labor of love!  On the other side of the country, the east coast is home to another specialist in the tulip field, with a slightly different approach to growing this energetic bloom. The folks at Fresh Tulips USA in Virginia come from a long line of tulip growers from The Netherlands, where Fresh Tulips USA majority owner Nico Boatman's grandfather started a small farm shortly after World War II. Two generations later, the extended family now owns and operates a worldwide operation with tulip farms in Europe and South America.

Coen Haakman and Nico Botman in the greenhouse at Fresh Tulips USA, LLC

Picking only the top of the line in bulb size, quality, and variety; they import their bulbs from The Netherlands, France and Chile. These are then grown hydroponically (in water with no soil), allowing for a very clean product. Their state of the art greenhouses can be opened completely so as to utilize the wonderful weather in Stevensburg, Virginia whenever possible! This allows the tulips to enjoy the benefits of being grown outside (direct sunlight makes for super-green foliage and strong, bold colors). The direct influence of nature has a very positive impact on the flower quality, and as the team at Fresh Tulips USA says "the best quality is grown under natural circumstances."  

General Manager, Coen Haakman proudly displays their pink tulips

When it comes to tulips, the choices are as diverse as varieties and ways in which they are grown. Whether you yearn for bold and brilliant splashes of tangerine orange and imperial purple, or delight in the subtle hues of pure white, and butter cream yellow…there is a tulip out there to fit your mood!

Thanks to the dedication to quality, attention to detail, and obvious love for what they do, the folks at The Sun Valley Group and Fresh Tulips USA help remind us that color has returned, and spring is on its way. I don't know about you, but there is a bunch of bright orange tulips calling my name right now!

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