The gentleman sitting astride that agricultural lawnmower is Loek, and he is in the midst of botanicide. Yes, he’s cutting some of his two million annual tulips. The majority of visitors have seen the pictures of the iconic tulip fields and assume that those flowers will soon be sold in florists. Nope. Wrong. Incorrect!
What happens is that the farmer plants baby tulip bulbs in November. They nestle beneath the soil and hunker down over winter, before blooming in Spring. The tulip farmer allows them to be in bloom for up to three weeks and then comes and chops the heads off.
This allows the energy of the sun to be absorbed by the bulb, and so it grows bigger.
After the beheading of the tulips in late April or May, the bulb remains in the ground for about another two months. In early July (or mabye late June), the tulip farmer then comes and harvests the bulbs: What began as a baby bulb in November has now matured into a much larger bulb and (usually) two baby bulbs.
After harvesting, the farmers separate the bulbs: Farmers like Loek store the baby bulbs for planting in the coming November.
They sell the mature bulbs, via brokers, to wholesale growers all over the world. The growers grow the bulbs into tulips – finally! – and sell them to florists. And that’s when they finally become available to enthusiasts like you!
So, the mass botanicide is a necessary part of the process in getting you your nice bunch of tulips. (I have to admit to a certain pleasure when I hear gasps – usually from the ladies – when I recount the reality of those tulips in the fields and their imminent beheadings).
Pictured above is one of our guests from a summer tour (we also do countryside and windmill tours throughout the year) holding a bag of tulips that were harvested in July of that summer. Standing next to her is Loek, one of the tulip farmers who generously bestowed the gift on her.
(If you’d like to book a tour with us you can do so here).