Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Celebrating Spring Flowers

Every flower has its day in the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the blooming season local festivals celebrate lilacs, peonies, dahlias, roses, and most other posies. The 2010 season kicks off this weekend with the Daffodil Festival in Junction City, Oregon. At the Long Tom Grange on daffodil-lined Ferguson Road, there will be homemade cinnamon buns, wagon rides, arts and crafts booths, and lots and lots of bright yellow flowers.

The next celebrated flower is the tulip with its wide array of intense colors. It is the harbinger of spring; a bright burst of color signifying the end of a long grey winter. With our cool, rainy climate, tulip growing has been an important agricultural commodity in the Pacific Northwest for many years, and the area offers a number of tulip festivals during March and April. Bloom time for tulips in this region can run from late February to late May depending on the variety, but most display their showy petals during April, peaking around the second week of the month.

Oregon’s largest display is east of Woodburn at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm where the 25th Annual Woodburn Tulip Festival will be in full swing from March 25 through April 25. With over 40-acres of brilliant blooming flowers, the farm enjoys a splendid setting with Mt. Hood and the foothills of the Cascade Range in view on clear days. Festival visitors can tip toe through the tulip fields, order from a selection of over 150 bulbs, and buy freshly cut tulips and daffodils. A gift shop features unique Dutch items and gardening books and accessories, and there are many kid-friendly activities for tulip lovers of all ages. Weekends offer additional attractions such as wine tastings, live music, local sausages, and arts and crafts tents.

Not to be outdone, Washington State also has its share of tulip festivals with the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, north of Seattle, drawing over one million visitors from all over the world. This event, running the entire month of April, is spread throughout Skagit County with tulip fields and farms covering a 15-mile radius. Festival events are scattered around several towns and offer something for everybody including bike and running events, street fairs, parades, art displays, quilt walks, salmon barbeques, antique markets, and wine tastings.

On a much smaller scale is the Woodland Tulip Festival, about a half hour drive north of Portland on I-5. The event takes place at the Holland America Bulb Farm owned by the Dobbe family. Benno Dobbe, along with his wife and three young children, immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands in 1980 and bought five acres of land along the Lewis River. Despite their modest beginnings, the farm now distributes millions of bulbs and cut flowers all over the world. This year’s tulip festival runs from April 3 through 30 and is similar to the event in Woodburn with tulip fields to walk through, a charming display garden with tulips and other spring-time blooms, and a gift shop offering fresh cut flowers and bulbs. On weekends, there are additional activities including live entertainment, ethnic food, crafts by local artists, and events for children.

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