Being a life long resident of Washington State, I have always wanted to see the tulips in bloom in Skagit Valley.
However, my first and only tulip "experience" to date was in 1985 on my very first trip to Europe. I was all of 23 years old. I set out solo to visit Paris via Amsterdam. While in the Netherlands, I had the opportunity to visit Keukenhof Garden, situated in Lisse, the Netherlands a little more than 20 miles away from Amsterdam. World-renowned Keukenhof Garden is also referred to as "the Garden of Europe" because it is one of the world's largest gardens with literally millions of tulips, daffodils and other bulb flowers.
Interestingly, the Skagit Valley tulip fields are "rooted" in Holland.
The first tulip bulbs were planted in Skagit County in 1906 when Mary Brown Stewart started growing tulips with bulbs from Holland. At the turn of the 20th century, the Skagit Valley was already becoming a center for agriculture, namely oats and peas. Eventually, the largest agricultural crop became seeds for growing cabbage, green beens, spinach, beets, peas and included other seeds like flax and mustard. Back then tulips were "only a small part of the crop and the whole operation was of modest size."
Later on, a wave of Dutch immigration to the United States followed the end of World War II. Because the population of the Netherlands had suffered so greatly during the war, the Dutch government, in order to help relieve pressing economic problems in the homeland, actively encouraged its own citizens to emigrate, even offering travel subsidies.
Many post-war Dutch immigrants settled in the Skagit Valley where its mild climate, supply of nearby water, and healthy soil are similar to Holland making it an ideal location for growing the flowers. The Dutch immigrants brought with them hundreds of years of tradition for growing tulips to the Skagit Valley. Today, the largest tulip farms in the Skagit are operated by descendants of those immigrant families who arrived from Holland in the 1940s and 50s. Some of these families have relatives in Holland who have grown tulips since the 1700s.
What began as a modest venture over a century ago, nurtured by several generations of the immigrant Dutch who sowed their tradition of growing tulips in the fertile Skagit Valley land, has turned into a thriving agricultural and tourist industry grossing tens of millions of dollars annually. As a matter of fact, more tulip, iris, and daffodil bulbs are produced in Skagit County than in any other county in the U.S.
Thirty-one years later after visiting Keukenhof Garden, I finally get my chance to visit the tulips a bit closer to home! My impressions of this experience add to my appreciation of this flower and of my home state.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival goes from April 1-30. You can learn more here.
Dutch tulips from their beds
Flaunted their stately heads.
Montgomery—The Adventure of a Star.
Mary Lamery is a lifelong resident and native of the Pacific Northwest. Lamery paints regional landscape in a manner that leans towards 19th century French Impressionism. Through her project, "Washington Americana," she will create original landscape paintings from her journeys through Washington for the creation of an art book of painted landscape of Washington State.
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