I was listening to Radio 4 last night (thank you Alexa) and there was a story about the poor quality of tulip bulbs from Amsterdam. Set against the strains of Max Bygraves singing, it recounted that only 1% of tulip bulbs bought at the floating bulb market in Amsterdam in a recent consumer test, flowered. 102 packs were bought from 15 sellers and of the 1364 bulbs planted only 14 flowered. Even worse, 92% of the bulbs failed to grow at all. Shock horror! None that flowered matched the pictures on the packet.
But then the most relevant fact was disclosed. The bulbs were bought in late APRIL! Tulips are the most resilient of all spring-flowering bulbs and can safely be planted as late as November and still grow and flower perfectly. But April?
This is not a story about poor quality Dutch tulips but about sharp practice and stupid tourists. I do not know figures but a good proportion of tourists to The Netherlands go in ‘bulb season’. I have been many times, sometimes as a courier with tourists. To see the bulb fields and Keukenhof is a wonderful treat. But if you go and see the tulips (and other bulbs) in bloom, do you really think that the dried bulbs will be any use? The ones in flower were planted six months ago.
This story shows us two things, that there will always be someone to sell what people want, no matter how useless it is, and that people have no instinct about the natural world that surrounds them.
I am quite sure that the sellers reassure the punters that the bulbs are fine so I blame the vendors more than the gullible punters.
Unfortunately this is just a reprise of what I have written about many times, when ‘nurseries’ from The Netherlands feature at flowers shows throughout the UK and Ireland, selling ‘out of season’ bulbs. Visit ‘Bloom’ in Dublin in June and there, beside the vases of alliums in flower, are dried bulbs for sale to plant. Does it not occur to people that it is a bit odd to be buying dry bulbs of a plant they can see in bloom in front of them?
The good news is that there is still time to plant your tulips – just don’t buy them and keep them till April to plant them!