Visiting Woodland’s Holland America Flower Gardens is a longstanding spring tradition, as deep-rooted as a May tulip.
Sonja Brady of Battle Ground has been coming to the South Pekin Road farm for at least a decade, she said during a Thursday evening stop driving home from Horseshoe Lake.
“We saw the signs were up and thought we’d come before everyone came out and took them all,” said Brady about the tulips. “We usually come every year.”
Holland America Flower Gardens opened its outdoor tulip season March 29 with contactless sales created in response to the pandemic.
For years, customers could purchase flowers in the Woodland farm gift shop, which was closed last spring to protect customers from the airborne coronaviruses.
The gift shop will remain shut down for the indefinite future, said owner Benno Dobbe, possibly even when the pandemic ends.
Like last year, today customers can handpick tulips in a designated field for $0.50 a stem or grab bouquets from a cooler in front of the gift shop and pay at drop boxes.
Customers can also view and photograph varied tulip varieties in a field closer to the road. The farm is open to the public from dawn to dusk through Mother’s Day.
In addition to selling wholesale and retail, Dobbe said the business started shipping flowers directly to customers throughout the country within the past year, a model he will continue past the pandemic. Sales aren’t at pre-coronavirus levels yet, he said, but he is hopeful the expansion of direct sales will help.
Dobbe, who also lives on the Woodland farm, said customers approve of the contactless sales and maintain distance and wear masks while in the fields.
“They can still enjoy the beauty of our tulips,” he said. “They love to come out with the families. The kids love to pick their own tulips. I don’t know how many pictures they have taken every year.”
Dobbe has been growing flowers all of his life, he said, like his father, and his father before him. His gardening expertise took root in his Holland home, and was uplifted to America when he and his family immigrated to Woodland in 1980.
“From when I was a little kid, I grew up with the tulips and the daffodils and the crocus, and the iris,” he said. “But tulips were always my favorite.”
In 1986, the family opened a second farm in California, where flowers are grown year-round. In 2002, they hosted their first Woodland tulip festival, which they disbanded around 2018.
Eight weeks ago, just before spring began, Dobbe’s wife of more than 50 years, Klazina, passed away at 68, leaving behind their three children and 10 grandchildren.
“She was my best friend,” he said. “We definitely miss her dearly.”
Their children Ben and Nicolette work in the company’s sales division, while Stefan co-owns a Vancouver roofing business.
As the family and business evolves, one constant remains: every April, the tulips bloom and customers return.
Brady was grateful for the spring staple Thursday, as her son and nephew gathered a handpicked bouquet for her sister.
“It’s nice to see all the flowers,” she said. “It’s nice to do something happy and cheery.”