A thin line between tulip mania and tulip ‘miseria’

Author: Ron van der Ploeg

SAN FRANCISCO, USA: No brightly-hued tulip garden to celebrate San Francisco’s 2020 tulip event this year as the city’s Departments of Public Health and Emergency Management at the 11th hour called for the cancellation of non-essential events, such as large gatherings and large community events amid coronavirus concerns.

Representatives from the Dutch flower bulb industry were faced with a tough decision on Saturday morning March 7: less than 24 hours before the opening of their annual pop-up tulip garden in San Francisco’s city centre, they had two options. For a moment they thought about cancelling the whole Flower Bulb Day event but then realised that seven trucks with tulips were on their way to the city and how many people would they be letting down. Henk Westerhof, Chairman of Royal Anthos, tells local reporters, “I think that ultimately the closure of the cutting-garden and handing out bouquets of free tulips on Union Square to the public was the right decision. We understand the gravity of the situation and agree that keeping the public safe and healthy is more important at this time.”

Now in its third years, Flower Bulb Day is a showcase of more than 100,000 tulips set in a pop-up garden where passers-by can harvest their bouquet of free tulips between 1 pm and 4:30 pm with complimentary flower bags offered by the event organisers.

Presented by Royal Anthos, the goal of Flower Bulb Day is to actively promote and support tulips and other bulb flowers such as lilies, hyacinths and iris. Flower Bulb Day also highlights the importance of the USA being Europe’s largest export market for flower bulbs. Forty to 50 per cent of the total number of European bulbs exported annually to the USA are bought by consumers who plant the bulbs in their gardens, as well as city governments and other local municipalities for planting in public parks. They sell the remaining 50 to 60 per cent to professional growers who plant the bulbs in greenhouses to produce cut flowers, which they sell to North American retailers who then sell to consumers.

While the 2020 event featured a much slimmed down programme, Anthos reps say they are already thrilled to return to San Francisco next year.

Royal Anthos represents the companies that trade in flower bulbs and nursery stock products in Europe and abroad. They manage a vast portfolio, including fulfilling a supervisory role in the development of (inter)national policies for market access; co-financing and advising the promotion policy of the industry and the international phytosanitary policy. They also have co-responsibility for the sector policy by participation in organisations and committees dealing with promotion, market access, quality, phytosanitary issues, the environment, education, research and labour issues.

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