A Year in the Life of a Tulip

Ah, that magical flower – the tulip.

At one point in history, it was a currency! People were so desperate to get their hands on those precious petals, that they paid vast sums just to own a rare variety.

Today, we’ve calmed down a bit and the tulip’s once again available to all. Young or old, rich or poor, the tulip has become something more than pretty decoration, or money. It’s a special symbol of Spring and signals the end of Winter.

Besides, that little pop of vibrant colour is just what we need to cheer us all up after a gloomy, cooped-up Winter season. It’s colour therapy at its best! And the mind-body connection can’t be ignored. When we see bright yellows, reds, pinks, oranges and those long green leaves, we feel instantly cheered and uplifted. It’s no wonder that a variety of tulip was recently recognized as the flower of peace and friendship. But, ever wonder what the flowers are thinking? What goes on in the life of a tulip? How do they go from an unremarkable bulb to the flower we love?

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Here’s what a tulip would tell us about a year in our fields…




“Hello, everyone! I’m a tulip. Well, really, I’m just a bulb. That’s how I start out. In Late September/early October I’m planted with all my brothers and sisters. They use four different tractors, including “The Pink Planter”, to plant over 7 million bulbs. And the people at Onos Greenhouses sure know how to do it! They use some of the most updated machinery to give us lots of room to grow.”



What do you mean?

“They plant us in 1.8 meter -wide rows. That means they’re able to plant more bulbs per acre, more than other growers, so we’re never very lonely. I have lots of other tulips to talk to. They also plant us between 2 sheets of mesh, and I like that. It keeps me nice and snug. And once I flower, it will allow me to grow a much cleaner bulb, that doesn’t need to be washed once dug up.”



What does planting season look like?

“Each year, they plant the tulip bulbs in different plots of land. I never know where I’m going to end up, or where my friends are going to be. I don’t mind though. I love to travel! Plus, this rotation of crops is essential in preventing disease from entering the planting stock.”



They must need a lot of land for that?

“Yes, sir. The farmers need enough land to rotate the tulip crops for at least 3 years, before returning to the land they previously used.  Other flower varieties must be rotated as well. Those crazy daffodils or perfumed hyacinths. I love those guys! And they can be planted on tulip soil, as different bulbs have different diseases.”



What’s winter like for you?

“It’s cold in the ground, but I’m not busy sleeping. My bulb starts to grow and change. I develop a strong root system in the moist soil, to carry me through the cool winter temperatures. For this reason, I need to be planted at least 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes. So, I can grow enough roots to sustain me.”



And how do you celebrate the holidays?

“Around December, I usually chill out and relax. January is my sleepy time. I need dormancy, so I can rest. It’s going to be busy come Spring, once plant growth is triggered by the warming ground.”



Do you get a Spring Break?

“No way! That’s when I wake up and get to work producing my petals! I couldn’t miss that! That’s my time to shine. I emerge from the soil and grow taller over the next 6-7 weeks. In April, it’s blooming time! Though I can’t tell you when. That depends on the weather. Sometimes, I can blossom as early as mid March. And sometimes I’m a late riser, which means, I’ll finish as late as the first week of May.”



How do you know when to blossom?

“The Hyacinths and Daffodils are the starter act. They’re like the intro band before the main show. They start blooming 1-2 weeks before the early tulips. So, when I see them blossom, I know it’s soon time to unfurl my petals.”



How long do you stay in bloom?

“On average, we tulips bloom for around 2-3 weeks. That’s when my vivid colours are at their best and brightest. I don’t mean to boast, but I’m perfectly pretty, and I love when my visitors get a chance to snap a picture or share my bloom on Facebook. It’s like I’m famous and I adore all the Likes! I even get a little jealous when I see the other flowers getting attention.”



What do you do after the Chilliwack Tulip Festival is over?

“I adore my time in the sun, surrounded by my many admirers! It gives me great satisfaction to know that people from all around, even as far as America, have come to see me flower. Though I’ll miss all the faces, the families, friends, and their children, at the end of the season, it’s time for my bloom to be removed, so that my energy goes back into my roots, to grow a large bulb, rather than turn into seed.”



Will you miss the Fest?

“It took me almost 7 years to develop from a seed, into the bulb where I began my journey. That’s how long it takes the average tulip to grow a bulb large enough to produce a flower. I will miss the people of the Fest, of course, but my focus now will be on growing my own bulb, who, if treated properly, will produce a flower year after year, just like I did. Carrying on the family tradition…”



How long will that take, to produce your own bulb?

“Around 6 weeks. During this time, the farmers fertilize and water the fields, as much as I need, to grow my bulb to just the right size.”



What happens next?

“Around June 1st, my bulb will be ready to be dug up from the ground, along with all the others.  Onos Greenhouses use 3 tractors including a specialty machine called “The Pink Digger” which separates the bulbs from the mesh.  The farmers store the bulbs in large wooden bins. And through July and August, the bulbs will be carefully dried, sorted and stored in a temperature-controlled environment. It’s very scientific and I’m glad they take such good care of my bulb. It’s my legacy, after all.”



What happens to the bulbs? Do they get their chance to shine?

“If my bulb is large enough, and I assure you it will be, because I put many years of effort into growing it, it will then be saved for use in the Onos greenhouse, as part of their cut tulip operation. The smaller bulbs that don’t quite make the cut are replanted back in the fields and the cycle begins again, until they grow a bulb large enough that it can be used in their cut flower greenhouse operation.” Well, thank you Tulip, for showing us how you go from bulb to bloom.



Any parting words?

“Yes, I do. Thank you Onos Greenhouses for taking such good care of me and my friends and the farmers who have brought my beauty to the public, with their wonderful Tulips of the Valley Festival. I hope everyone can come out to see me this year, and I highly recommend it. Talking about tulips is one thing, but seeing them for yourself? That’s something that no words can tell you. You’ll just have to come out to the Fest and visit its 20-acres of tulip friends.”

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