The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon was my introduction to flower farms. Rows and rows of bright blooms swayed in the gentle breeze under a sunny spring sky. The effect is euphoric! Watching their beauty, their undeniable elegance it isn’t difficult to imagine how tulips became a symbol of affluence and luxury, and ultimately the cause of what is known as the Tulip Fever that gripped Holland in the 17th Century. However, recently the Smithsonian ran an article that debunked the madness that is associated with the Tulip Fever. Stories of sailors being jailed for eating a bulb, bulbs selling for the price of mansions, the whole country spiralling into economic ruin are all over the place but how much of it is true?
Tulips are native to the valleys of the Tien Shan Mountains and were cultivated in the gardens of the Ottoman rulers as early as 1055. The bulbs first made their way across the Mediterranean Sea as gifts to European travellers by Turkish royalty. In an era when fascination with exotic objects, especially those of oriental origin, was the rage in Europe, Dutch traders set their eyes on tulips. Particularly of interest to them and to botanists like Carolus Clusius were “broken bulbs”— tulips whose petals showed a striped, multicolour pattern rather than a single solid colour. The effect was unpredictable (later it was found to be caused by a mosaic virus) and as botanists tried to find ways to reproduce those patterns, demands for “broken bulbs” shot up. Economist Peter Garber writes, “Since breaking was unpredictable, some have characterized tulipmania among growers as a gamble, with growers vying to produce better and more bizarre variegations and feathering.” With high demand and bulbs selling for astronomical prices, people from all strata of the economy started entering the tulip trade. Some buyers were ready to pay obscenely high amounts for some bulbs but when some buyers “couldn’t pay the high price previously agreed upon, the market did fall apart and cause a small crisis— but only because it undermined social expectations.” The author of the article mentions that contrary to popular belief they found no mention of anyone going bankrupt or drowning themselves in canals as a result of the tulip craze.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival is held at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Oregon. Around 80 varieties of tulips in shades ranging from dazzling to pastel paint 40 acres of farmland from mid-March to mid-April. They have been growing tulips since 1974! Apart from the gorgeous flowers, there are hot air balloon rides, a fall gift shop, and a wine tasting room. If these do not fulfil your Insta-lust, there’s also a steam tractor and a bright pink tractor! And lots of cute pets. There are rides and games for children as well as food stalls. The farm sells cut flowers and bulbs. If you are looking for a similar experience in India, visit the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Immerse your soul in 29 acres of tulips in numerous shades in the first two weeks of April.
A host of gorgeous tulips and a happy dog. Need a better detox?
You can go on a hot air balloon ride over the colourful quilt of tulips at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. $15 for adults.
This stunning varietal had flame-coloured feathering on bright yellow petals.
Rows and rows of delicate pink tulips and some orange ones which had just begun to bloom. The beginning of April is the best time to visit.
This bright pink variety was the most striking. The colour reminded me of a wildflower named lobongolotika. The flowers grew on a creeper on our neighbour’s fence in Howrah till they rebuilt their house. I never found them again.
Pretty pastels, anyone?
I had to give the balloon ride a miss because of my notoriously low grad student budget 😦 but I made it up with copious minutes of gazing as they rose, multicoloured tulips, in the sunny spring skies!
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival runs from the end of March to the middle of April.
Address: 33814 S Meridian Rd, Woodburn, OR 97071
How to Reach: From Portland, OR, take the I-5 South to Exit 282A. Proceed east towards Woodburn.