Digging into the Spring Cut Flower Market in Ambler

by 
Mira Kilpatrick, Weavers Way Ambler Floral Buyer
Photos by Karen Plourde
Top: Gerard Kilpatrick; Bottom: Mira Kilpatrick and her son, Fred

Tulips come in a wide array of colors, shapes and textures; they even carry a soft, subtle fragrance. But when we order tulips from a wholesaler, we can’t choose varieties, styles or even colors.

As a former farmer and local enthusiast, I thought it would be fun to grow some specialty tulips out front for cuts next spring. Specialty tulips, similar to heirloom veggies, perhaps aren’t as productive, don’t ship as easily, or boast a long shelf life. But their strengths in other categories (flavor, color, texture etc.) warrant growing and buying specialty/heirloom varietals.

The tulips that we get in seasonally (February through May) typically come from Canada. When tulips are grown commercially for cut flowers, thy are treated as annuals. They are planted close together in wide trenches, given a good drink of water and covered with six inches of soil.

I recruited my husband to help out with this project (Thank you, Gerard!). It took half a day to cut down the pallets and build bed frames and another four to six hours to plant, water and cover all 3,000 bulbs.

In the spring, when it’s time to harvest, they will be pulled, bulb and all, and put into cold storage until it’s time to cut, bunch and sell them. Harvesting them with the bulb allows for longer stem length and more longevity during storage. Once cut and placed at room temperature, the blooms open more fully.

We chose six varieties of tulips, including two frilly parrot types, several full double varieties, and a more standard mix called Phillie. Here’s hoping all goes well, and that we’ll have some gorgeous Weavers Way Ambler-grown tulips available next April!

By the way, it’s not too late to plant your fall bulbs — tulips, daffodils, crocuses etc. And we have a small amount of Netherland bulb kits still available at the Ambler store. See you soon!