Everything is Coming Up Tulips. Can We Run Through the Fields?

16-4 Princess irene Negrita 2We are total suckers for tulip news. Hence today’s lead story: The first Organic Tulip Festival on Long Island begins in Riverhead this Saturday, May 2, at the Garden of Eve farm, and will be open daily through May 24. On display: 30,000 tulips (!) for you to admire, pick and/or tiptoe through. That is a LOT of tulips.

Owners Keriann and Jeroen Koeman have been organizing this same tulip festival in Virginia for the past five years as a promotional offshoot of their real business, EcoTulips, a purveyor of organic bulbs.  “My husband is Dutch,” says Keriann (which does explain things). The two want to capture the organic tulip market — they have few competitors, stateside — by growing and selling bulbs that are free of systemic pesticides, which are “the ones being linked to the decline of bees, and now birds and butterflies,” she says.

This is the Koemans’ first season on Long Island. They’re attracted to our area because of — wait for it! — the colder climate. (Glad that’s useful to someone.) Turns out, tulips originated in the nippy mountains of Central Asia. “They need a long cool spring,” Keriann says. “In Virgina, it gets hot really fast.” Last year, scouting out locations in the Northeast, the couple drove out to the East End. “My husband saw all the farm land, all the farms — and he fell in love,” she says.

Jeroen and Keriann Koeman, EcoTulips co-owners.

Jeroen and Keriann Koeman, EcoTulips co-owners.

The Koemans began the festival in rural Virginia after launching EcoTulips in 2009. It began as a lucky mistake: An overzealous Jeroen miscalculated how many bulbs they could sell, and the two found themselves overstocked with 80,000 organic bulbs imported from Holland. (Fickle flower bulbs do not have a long shelf life.) They decided to plant them all, and invite the general public to pick. “It turned into a huge success,” Keriann says, so much so that the couple decided to host the festival each year. “It’s great marketing for our flowers.”

Last year’s festival was canceled, though. Turns out that gardeners in Virginia have a familiar enemy: Hungry deer. “The deer came in mid-winter and dug them out of the ground, which is extremely rare,” Keriann says. “There was snow on the ground, and we had red clay —  it was like tulips murder.” The couple lost about a third of their income as a result.

The Koemans have made sure their Riverhead field, planted with 30,000 flowers, has a big deer fence. This will be a trial season, and they plan to stay if growth — of the tulips and their business — takes off.

Interested in picking some tulips? A day pass to the field is $4 (a season pass is $5 if purchased online, or $7 at the door) and children under 6 are free. Each tulip that you pick to take home is $1. More details on the festival’s site here. Keriann suggests checking the festival’s Bloom Report or Facebook page to see what’s sprouting before planning a long drive. Right now, peak tulip season should be Mother’s Day weekend, May 11-12. Interested gardeners can order organic bulbs on EcoTulips’ site or purchase at Marder’s in Bridgehampton.

The Daily Bee returns tomorrow. Got a tip? Email thehamptonbee@gmail.com.

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