Tulip Time in the Skagit Valley

Wendy Worrall Redal by Wendy Worrall Redal | April 6th, 2010 | 8 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living, Healthy Eating

Photo by Wendy Worrall Redal

Is there anything that says “spring” more effusively than a tulip? As soon as colorful bunches start popping up in the grocery store in February, I quit thinking about wet snow, gray skies and winter’s lingering grip. However pretty a bright bouquet of cut blooms is, there’s nothing like surveying row upon rainbow-striped row of these spring floral icons in full, growing glory.

Now that April is here, so are tulips in the fields. And you don’t have to travel to the Netherlands to see them. In fact, Washington’s Skagit Valley rivals the more famous European growing region as one of the world’s top tulip producers. An hour north of Seattle, this lush river bottom land at the edge of the Cascade Mountains bursts into a technicolor quilt each spring, first with the sunny yellow of daffodils, then with 700 acres of tulips in squares of red, pink, fuschia, orange, coral, purple and ivory.

Thousands of visitors flock to the valley to follow the tulip trails and enjoy the show gardens at Roozengaarde and Tulip Town. The month-long Skagit Valley Tulip Festival provides maps and bloom updates and sponsors a host of events including a parade, street fair, fun run, antique safari and Tulip Pedal bicycle outing. The festival centers on the town of Mount Vernon, though nearby LaConner — a popular artist enclave on the Swinomish Slough — is also bustling with tulip-themed doings during the month of April. A nice alternative to driving, especially if you’re tulip-touring on a busy weekend, is to travel by bike. Guided rides to the fields, display gardens and festival events are offered through Tulip Country Bike Tours.

Wendy and her daughter, Bryn, at Tulip Town. Photo by John Seyler

Tulips arrived in the Skagit Valley with William Roozen, who emigrated from Holland in 1947. Bringing two centuries of tulip-growing heritage with him, Roozen started a flower farm on five acres. Today, the family business — the Washington Bulb Company — is the largest bulb producer in the U.S., growing millions of tulips, daffodils and irises on more than 1,000 acres and in 16 greenhouses.

But flowers aren’t the only produce grown in Skagit County. The valley is also a showcase for artisanal agriculture and the Slow Food movement, which celebrates locally produced food cooked from scratch to share in good company. More than 90 different crops flourish in the fertile lowlands, while small dairies, livestock operations and fisheries round out locally sourced menus at the region’s growing number of fine cafes.

Agritourism is a central part of the valley’s economy: Sample farmstead cheeses, organic yogurt and fresh-churned butter at Samish Bay Cheese and Golden Glen Creamery. Pick up fresh vegetables, berries and homemade jams at Snow Goose Produce (2010 Fir Island Road in La Conner). And, by all means, don’t miss the Berry Barn at Lenning Farms (14285 LaConner-Whitney Road, Mt. Vernon) for fabulous fresh-baked berry pies. Slow Food Skagit provides a list of local farm stands, farmers’ markets and restaurants that offer a full spectrum of gustatory delights from land and sea.

Comments

  1. Oh my gosh, that is a beautiful site! How refreshing and definitely points to spring!
    Thanks so much for making me feel uplifted :O)

    Tracy Ouellette | April 6th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  2. Glad to lift your spirits, Tracy!

    Wendy Redal | April 6th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. I hate to be critical, but your picture does not help the efforts of the growers or festival. There are signs every where about not going between the rows. I am facilitating the social media and the growers have asked that I keep communicating the importance of respecting the signs. They have sustained a large amount of damage to their crop this year and if people can’t respect the rules the fields may no longer be assecible to the public in the future. You may wish to take down that image and or add this important detail.

    Thanks.

    Pamela | April 6th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  4. Boy does this bring back memories. My college-age daughter and I had a fabulous long weekend at the Tulip Festival a few (!) years ago. The colors are unbelievable. Good food and fun stops everywhere, and we loved the combination of confined spaces (this is a single large valley) and access to water adventures. Yes, a lot of people descend on the valley for the festival — it’s best if you can catch one or two weekdays rather than being limited to Saturday and/or Sunday.

    Karen | April 7th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  5. Love the picture! Please don’t take down your photo…it’s beautiful and something that will bring back memories for years to come. Ignore critical remarks from negative people.

    Jen | April 10th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  6. Pamela,

    Your comment is well taken. A portion of the particular field at Tulip Town in which the picture of which my daughter and I was taken was open to visitors to wander between the rows for photos. You are correct, however; it is important that people respect the posted signs indicating off-limits areas, which are most of the field interiors.

    Thanks for noting this,

    Wendy

    Wendy Redal | April 12th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  7. Tulips are awesome, they’re in full bloom this April! And very nice photo, I love it! Very colorful! Thanks for featuring Tulip Festival in your blog. :)

    oxygen energy | April 13th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  8. I love tulips, just got back from taking HDR photos for the Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan and happened along your website when I was doing research.

    Ann Teliczan | April 28th, 2010 | Comment Permalink

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