Greenhouse Canada was recently invited on a press trip to the Netherlands back in March. The purpose? To experience the Tulip Trade Event, a three-day affair that involved open houses from various tulip breeders and exporters. Huge thanks go out to iBulb, the flower bulb marketing association in the Netherlands, for hosting us, taking us to several bulb exporters and ending off the tour at the Keukenhof.
Never before had I seen so many tulips in one place – and with such unique-looking varieties to boot. In a cover meeting we had for this May issue, I presented three potential cover images of different tulip varieties to the production team. One photo prompted a colleague to ask, “that’s a tulip?!”
Yes. Gone are the days where a consumer’s only choice was a single, one-colour tulip. Now we have doubles, fringes, parrots and other hybrids to choose from. Not only did we see numerous varieties at the open houses, but multiple bulb exporters displayed each variety twice – one grown in soil and the other grown in hydroponics.
Based on the literature I’ve come across and conversations in passing, there seem to be pros and cons to each method. But given that 90 per cent of tulips are now forced using hydroponic methods in the Netherlands, it seems that growers are leaning towards one method over the other.
The hydroponic process is an interesting one, and nothing like the images conjured up by greenhouse vegetable systems. Tulip bulbs are placed in special trays, containing pins that keep the bulb right side up. The trays are then filled with water, which gets refreshed multiple times throughout the forcing process to reduce the risk of disease. Plus, hydroponic forcing is quicker, which helps save on energy and generally leads to a more uniform crop for cuts.
As John Van Koeveringe of Spring Valley Gardens notes in the feature on pg. 34, there really aren’t a lot of pest or disease issues with this crop. This sentiment is echoed by Marco Knol, sales manager at Bot Flowerbulbs. With increasing awareness around pesticide use, it’s time consumers realized how far this sector has come in growing flowers, and growing them with minimal inputs. This educational piece is where consumer flower events like the Keukenhof can play a big role.
Open eight weeks each year, over one million visitors stop by the Keukenhof annually. With seven million flower bulbs planted over 32 hectares, photos from this spring garden would be classified as Instagram-worthy, to say the least. Admittedly, mid-to-late March was perhaps not the ideal time for seeing tulips outdoors, but park managers had already taken this into account, planting layers of crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils and tulips to ensure that there’s something in bloom when visitors walk through the gate. Not to mention a large greenhouse full of gorgeous tulips.
Wondering where the image on the front cover came from? It’s Tulipa ‘Quebec’ from inside the Keukenhof greenhouse. Sorry. The Canada 150 tulip (aka Carnaval de Rio) just didn’t make the cut.
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