This is our 6th year at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, one of the highlights of Spring time in the beautiful Skagit Valley in Mount Vernon, Washington. Started in 1984, the festival has grown over the years into today’s month-long celebration. This year we visit with our travel companion, Bin Lin.
Every spring hundreds of thousands of people come to enjoy the celebration of spring as millions of tulips burst into bloom.
We begin our tour of the tulips at RoozenGaarde, one of the largest bulb growers in North America with more than hundreds of acres of tulip, daffodil, and iris fields right here in Mount Vernon. The company is owned by the Roozen family – tulip and bulb growers in Holland and the United States since the early 1700’s. RoozenGaarde has a beautiful 3 ½ acre display garden that is planted with over a quarter-million bulbs and features an authentic Dutch Windmill. Each year they completely redesign and replant the display garden to feature beautiful new tulip, daffodil, and iris varieties. Planted in the display garden are over 90 varieties of tulips and over 140 varieties of flower bulbs in total. Included are tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, muscari, irises, and other specialty flowers. All with convenient name plates in the beds so you’ll know what to order. Out back are the vast tulip fields where these beautiful flowers are cultivated and then harvested to create bulbs that people from all over the world buy each year.
Our next stop is TulipTown, a display garden run by another major family tulip farm in the valley. The signature landmark of TulipTown has to be the authentic replica windmill built by TulipTown owner Tom De Goede and his grandson. Below the windmill is a moat with an impressive planting of tulips and other beautiful flowers, known as Tulip Town Canal. Next to the TulipTown Canal and windmill is a tiny garden called the Prater Garden, named after the engineer who helped Tom build the windmill propellor. This garden is home to all of the newest varieties of tulips for the season. This year a special planting of tulips called Vetran’s Valor is on display to honor our war veterans and remember their courage and sacrifice for our great nation. We were fortunate to meet Tom De Goede working in the garden and he showed us that if you look at the flags just right, you can see a dove. This year, the seemingly endless cycle of Spring showers and sunshine, have brought forth a truly breathtaking display of color in the fields. The World Peace garden features Tulip varieties from all over the world and many are named after different countries. The large globe sculpture in the Peace garden was crafted by sculptor Nick Cecotti.
TulipTown also features an indoor visitor center with a cafe, gift shop and bulb shop where you can buy some of the beautiful varieties of Tulips that are on display. A couple of years ago when we visited TulipTown, we were lucky enough to see artist Jennifer Bowman working on this magnificent wall mural. The indoor garden is dressed up to look like an old-world tulip farm in Holland with slow moving boats gliding gracefully along the canals carrying beautiful tulips down stream. The indoor garden features a miniature Dutch windmill.
Year after year when we visit the Tulips, we always visit the wonderful Washington State University Discovery Garden. Started by the master gardener class of 1994, Discovery Garden features over 20 different gardens to explore. The entrance garden features a central stone sculpture and paths leading out to several different gardens featuring plants suitable to different sunlight and watering conditions. The shade garden gives the gardener ideas for shade loving plants like hostas, ferns, astilbes and more. This border creates a cool feeling by including plants with texture and shades of blue, green, purple, lavender, and silver. The Hot Color border uses annuals, perennials, and bulbs in hot colors such as red, orange, and yellow to spice up any garden even on a rainy day. Discovery Garden also has a Japanese Garden with plants and stones used in groupings. There are water features used as a focal point of the garden and emphasize quiet contemplation. Dry rock beds are used to symbolize a rushing river and large rocks represent grand mountains in miniature. The water wise garden features plants that need little water other than rainfall. A thick layer of mulch around the plants helps retain water and keep down the weeds. The large grape arbor was created in memory of Dr. Richard Hoag, affectionately known as Doc. He was one of a small group of WSU Master Gardeners who helped start the Discovery Garden. Doc and his wife gave the first donations to help start the garden. There’s a small garden of primroses, fig trees, ferns, and fuchsias which honors Joe Dupre, a Navy Chief who was one of the first graduates of the WSU Master Gardener classes. These plants were some of Joe’s favorites.
After tip-toeing through the tulip fields, it’s time for lunch, and there’s no better place for us to recharge than Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery in Mount Vernon’s old town. The cafe is housed in an old brick building that used to be home to Tillinghast Seed Company, the local seed and feed store. Complete with original wooden floors, high beamed ceilings, and historic photos on the walls, Calico Cupboard Cafe has the kind of homey ambience that invites you to stay and enjoy the good food. The cafe has two levels. Downstairs features a happy din of conversation and laughter, while the upstairs balcony area is a much quieter scene. The cafe is well-loved by the locals and is very popular for breakfast and lunch. Famous for its cinnamon rolls and lemon sour-cream and Key lime pies, most of the baked goods are made from scratch every morning, many featuring fresh-milled organic whole grain flour. Linda Freed, an accomplished baker, opened the original Calico Cupboard Cafe in nearby La Conner over 30 years ago, followed by branches in Anacortes and this one right here in downtown Mount Vernon in 1996.