Tulip Fest Preview
by Dara Wagner
When Mom and her friend Margret asked me to take them to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival last year I had no idea how thoroughly I’d enjoy it. Sure, I was happy to take them for a nice day trip. I knew I would enjoy the flowers and have some great photo ops. But let’s face it – I’m a bit of a backcountry snob, more interested in searching out native dwellers deep in the woods, seeking the unusual, the untamed, even the occasional brave cultivar that’s broken through the garden gate and ventured into the wild. In my way of thinking, though pretty, there was nothing tamer than the common tulip.
I could not have been more wrong.
Our first impression of the tulip fields were from afar, great swaths of billowing, undulating color filling field after field of the mountain-ringed Skagit Valley. The drive into the valley itself was breathtaking, leaving us eager for a close-up encounter with tulips.
We chose a tulip farm at random. Though I’d worried about Mom’s mobility challenges I was relieved to find easy access with wide, relatively smooth paths through much of the farm and ample places to rest while enjoying the colorful plantings.
The grounds surrounding the buildings were beautifully landscaped, filled with lush beds of tulips in staggering variety. We could have stayed in this formally landscaped area all day and not seen every type of tulip on display. Mom and Margaret were beyond thrilled, as was I.
Spreading out from the ornamental landscaping are cultivar displays, deep rows of different varieties, all clearly labeled and described.
Despite my preconceived notions, I discovered the sheer variety of tulips to be staggering. They come in every color, from near-black to a white as translucent as the finest bone china, plus every conceivable color between. Petals are smooth or ruffled, doubled, tufted, twisted and toothed. Such unusual variety would have driven me to tears had I been trying to choose a favorite among them. If I’d had anywhere to garden I would have hauled home a hundred varieties that day.
Though tulips are the stars of the show, other beautiful plants are on display in the ornamental gardens. Formal plantings include many types of bulbs and spring annuals as well as spring flowering perennials and trees in striking combinations.
My favorite displays were naturalized tulips. Scattered in a field of grasses or crowding a lichen covered split-rail fence, I discovered that tulips are a perfect addition to any setting.
Whether you’re a tulip aficionado, photographer or just want to experience one of the Pacific Northwest’s finest local festivals in a breathtaking setting, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is not to be missed.
WHEN YOU GO
The festival officially runs the entire month of April. Keep in mind that an early or late spring will affect when peak bloom occurs. Wear comfortable walking shoes or waterproof boots if it’s rained and you want to explore the fields. Though there are paved and gravel paths through the ornamental plantings, the fields are unpaved.
The large tulip farms have relatively good access for folks with disabilities. Seating, food and beverages are available. Bulbs and blooming plants are offered for purchase, be prepared to keep notes on the cultivars you desire or you’ll soon lose track amongst all the options.
See the Skagit Valley Tulip Festivals official website at https://tulipfestival.org. It’s easy to use and offers a wealth of information including maps, fees, dining and other attractions in the beautiful Skagit Valley.