Skagit Valley blessed with perfect climate for tulips

Skagit Valley blessed with perfect climate for tulips
The sunset nestled behind Roozengaarde's field of Ile de France, Negrita, and Dynasty tulips on April 11, 2013. (Courtesy: Roozengaarde Tulips, tulips.com)

Every April, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival draws people from around the world to marvel at the brilliant and colorful display of flowers that grace the region's farmlands.

How did this spot tucked into the northwester corner of Washington become the national capital of tulips and an international sensation? By being blessed with some ingenious farmers and the perfect climate for growing tulips.

"The cool, maritime climate that encompasses this area is perfect for bulb growth," said Brent Roozen, with Roozengaarde Flowers & Bulbs, one of the two main farms in the Skagit Valley that grow tulips.

The Skagit Valley sits roughly on par with the latitude of another famous tulip paradise: Holland. While that country is about 250 miles closer to the North Pole, Holland and the Skagit Valley have remarkably similar climates:

 

  Amsterdam Skagit Valley
Annual Rainfall 30.0 inches 32.3 inches
Average Winter High/Low 40.3 / 32.0 45.5 / 33.6
Average Summer High/Low 72.0 / 55.0 73.5 / 50.7


But Roozen says the Skagit Valley's climate is made even better by their close proximity to water and the maritime breezes that blow in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca through the flatland that sits between Mount Vernon and La Conner.

"Basically, we are surrounded by a cool maritime climate that provides for cool/cold winters (but not freezing) that gradually transition to cool springs and warm summers and moderate autumns," he said.

Roozen says that gradual transition is a key advantage to having why they have some of the best tulips in the world.

"Because of the cool winter and spring and the very gradual increase in temperature, the tulips have a very long growing season which allows them to form some big big blooms and develop very vibrant colors," he said. "Tulips will have a sudden burst of growth/bloom in climates that have a quick transition from cold to warm."

And while some of the locals might fret at the frequent rains here, the farmers say it's the right balance.

"We receive the right amount of precipitation during the seasons too," Roozen said. "Plenty of rainfall during the winters (sometimes too much) and springs, and enough dry weather to harvest the bulbs during the summers and then plant them again in the fall."

And then the icing on the cake -- the soil is perfect there too!

"In addition to the climate, the farmland in the Skagit Valley is blessed with very fertile topsoil," Roozen said. "This is the result of years and years of flooding from the many sloughs that ran throughout the valley before the Skagit River was diked. As much as the tulips like our combination of weather and environment, the daffodils may enjoy it even more. Our tulip bulbs and flowers grow to very large sizes while our daffodils grow to enormous sizes!"

In tomorrow's blog, Roozen will go into how weather can affect the tulip festival itself, from making the bulbs appear too early to keeping them cooped up too long. Is sunshine a good thing or a bad thing?