Holland tulip festival, climate change and what to expect this year
- Holland will host its annual Tulip Time festival from May 6-14
- Warm weather earlier in April posed a risk that tulips would bloom too early, but it’s been cold since and that’s just fine
- Over 65,000 tulips will be showcased during the festival in addition to an array of tulips across the city
Michigan experienced a belt of warm weather when temperatures reached as high as the low 80s earlier in April.
That was good for winter-weary residents, not so great for the army of organizers behind the Tulip Time festival in Holland, who feared too many warm days could lead to a premature bloom.
So the past few weeks of colder, drearier weather is welcome news for tulip lovers and the West Michigan city that famously celebrates them each May.
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The only year there were no tulips in bloom was 2012, said Andy Kenyon, the parks and recreation director for the city of Holland.
That’s when “we had stem fest,” he said. “We had 80-degree weather in March for about a week and it made all of the tulips bloom fast, then they fell off and we didn’t have tulips that year.”
The festival runs from Saturday, May 6 to Sunday May 14, and is spread across gardens, with walking tours, an immersion garden, Dutch dancers and other activities within a four-mile radius of downtown.
Tulip Time festival — What to know
Thousands of people travel to Holland in May to see a colorful variety of tulips. The Tulip Time festival is May 6 to May 14. Visitors can purchase tickets for the carnival, parade and other activities available throughout the festival. An immersive garden, which showcases over 65,000 tulips, will be open 9 a.m. to 4 pm most days, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
The spring tradition began in 1929. In 1991, the festival was expanded from four to 10 days and held later in the month. By 2001, the effects of climate change persuaded the festival board to move up the event a week and shorten it to eight days.
Since then, Tulip Time has always been scheduled for the first full week in May to avoid the danger of not having tulips for the festival. The recent cold spell, which has included a bit of snow, hasn’t fazed festival organizers.
“Tulips are a very hearty flower and bulb, they don’t mind cold weather,” Tulip Time Executive Director Gwen Auwerda told the Holland Sentinel. “How the growth cycle works, as I understand it, they like temperatures around 40 at night and a warm up during the day.
“(Tuesday) morning, the snow on top, it didn’t matter at all. They’re doing just fine.”
Like most flowers, tulips thrive in steady environments and drastic weather patterns over short periods of time can be detrimental to their growth. When tulip bulbs are planted in the fall, they begin to develop roots. In winter, the flower enters a dormant state which helps the stem and leaves grow. When spring comes around, the warm weather triggers the floral bud and a flower appears.
Warm winters can cause damage to viable flowers and impact how they grow the next season. When the weather fluctuates in the spring it puts tulips at risk of budding too early and then freezing when the temperature goes back down.
Kenyon said the city has come up with creative ways to prevent the tulips from budding too early.
“We have about 90 different varieties of tulips that we plant,” he said. “Some of them … are early bloomers, some of them are mid-bloomers and some of them are late bloomers.”
The early bloomers start to bloom toward the end of April and by mid-May the mid and late bloomers have fully formed into a vibrant flower.
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