Tulips! Tulips! Tulips!
Reported June 2006
HILLEGOM, The Netherlands (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- When you think of Holland, you probably think of tulips. They're bright, bold and beautiful! Learn what it takes to grow tulips like these, but do you ever wonder how these unique flowers are created? We traveled all the way to the tulip capital of the world to find out.
Red, pink, yellow, orange and purple. Tulips come in all colors, shapes and sizes. There are about 1,700 varieties of tulips, and about 80 percent of them come from the Netherlands.
"We have 400 years of experience, and the growing conditions are, here in our country, more or less optimal," Jos Eijking, a horticulture engineer at The International Flower Bulb Center in Hillegom, the Netherlands, tells Ivanhoe.
Cold winters and dry summers are key. And though the science behind the beauties at Keukenhof Gardens near Lisse, Holland, is simple, it takes time.
First, horticulture engineers harvest seeds for one year in a special room then put them outside for another year. It takes three more years in the field before a bulb is formed. If you wanted to create a new species of tulips from one seed, it would take you about 20 years to do it, because the only way to get more bulbs is to wait for a mother bulb to produce daughter bulbs.
"It is like an oil tanker. When you want to change direction, you've got to do it now, and then you see the results in five years," says Arie Deterse, a Dutch horticulture breeder.
Luckily, experts grow the bulbs -- not you. Consumers can simply buy them at the store and plant them.
Eijking says, "Then they will grow easily because you plant already a tulip plant with nutrition, so there is no need to add anything else."
For best results, plant your bulbs in the fall. If you live in a warm climate, store them in the fridge for about 10 weeks during winter. Space bulbs four inches apart and six inches deep. Choose an area with good drainage. Also, be prepared for the unexpected!
"In your head, you've got some imagination of what's going to come out, and then nature always surprises you," Deterse says. If you're lucky, nature will surprise you with flowers that look like as good as the experts'!
Holland grows up to 25,000 tulips each year. The country exports more than $700 million worth of flower bulbs.
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