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Woodland tulip farm among those basking in warm winter’s bounty

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter
3 Photos
After an unusually warm winter, the tulips are out early at Woodland's Holland America Bulb Farm.
After an unusually warm winter, the tulips are out early at Woodland's Holland America Bulb Farm. Photo Gallery

WOODLAND — After an unseasonably warm winter, tulips are in bloom at farms throughout the Northwest nearly a month early this year.

While 2015’s abnormally warm and dry winter raised some alarm about a shortage of snowpack, flower farmers throughout the region have been soaking up the heat and opening their shops far ahead of schedule. From the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Ore., to Skagit Valley’s famous tulip farms up north of the Puget Sound, tulip fields are exploding with color at least three weeks earlier than usual.

Benno Dobbe, the owner of Woodland’s Holland America Bulb Farm, said he’s never quite seen another season like it.

“My wife, Klazina, and I emigrated to America in 1980, and I have only seen one other year that we had such an early season with our tulips since then,” Dobbe said, “although I believe this year is even earlier.”

This year, Holland America opened its U-pick and show fields three weeks earlier than planned, thanks to the warm weather. Usually, Holland America’s workers irrigate the tulips near the end of April, but this spring they were already on the project a few weeks ago, Dobbe said.

Tulip season normally comes to a close by the end of next month, a few weeks after Holland America’s annual Tulip Trot 5K, said Stacey Lane, the farm’s retail manager. So far, nearly 300 people have signed up for the April 4 run.

“Everybody’s saying, ‘I know we’re early, but we’re still coming out for the festival,’ ” she said. “Hopefully, the late-blooming tulips will still be showing a lot of color.”

Lucky for the farm, the early bloom hasn’t been bad for business, Lane said. Every day, hundreds of customers have come to the place to pick from its dozens of tulip varieties. And to keep up with the demand, Holland America’s store extended its hours into the weekends about a month earlier than usual.

For those wondering if the speedy bloom means fields will be picked over by the day of the run, Lane said there should be no worries.

“Actually, that’s probably going to be the best viewing time,” she said. “Tulips bloom early, mid- and late season. So, it just means our ‘earlies’ came up extra early.”

The farm also grows peonies, lilies and seasonal flowers year-round. Whether the higher temperatures and drier days will affect the other flowers remains to be seen, but she doesn’t believe the warm winter will have the same impact on the rest of the farm.

“Tulips are probably the most sensitive,” Lane said. “They’re really temperature-sensitive.”

Runners will also notice Holland America’s fields look a little different this year. Both sides of the drive up to the farm at 1066 S. Pekin Road are usually lined with tulips. Some of those fields are bare this year, but there’s an explanation for that: “We have just as many tulips as we’ve ever had,” Lane said. “They’re just planted in different places. It’s just a normal part of farming. You’ve got to rotate your crops.”

This spring, the farm is also working on converting a small open space in the corner of its store into a museum with a display of old Holland America farm equipment.

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Columbian Small Cities Reporter