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Where are the tulips? Cool spring messes with Skagit Valley's flower schedule

The daffodils are out in the Skagit Valley! But the cool spring has the tulips waiting another week or so to bloom. (Photo: Brendan Ramsey, April 2, 2017)

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- After two straight springs of being early risers, it might seem like the Skagit Valley tulips are sleeping in a bit this year.

But don't worry, this is actually what it's supposed to be like.

The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs from April 1-30, with the tulips usually arriving around a week into April and lasting toward the end of the month.

But in 2015, coming off our record-warm winter and early spring with several days in the 50s and even some 60s, the tulips sprouted in mid-March -- weeks ahead of schedule and shattering their inaugural bloom date by several days. Last winter and spring were only a slight bit cooler, and the tulips again had a March awakening, shifting the typically month-long bloom a couple weeks earlier than usual. So for the past two festivals, the tulips' bloom were already well underway by the time the official festival began, and thus were done well before the festival typically ended. Those who arrived in late April missed the show.

However, 2017s show is running closer to what it's supposed to do -- an initial bloom around April 7th or so.

MORE | Tulip Bloom Map

"If there is still such thing as an 'average year,' then this might be it," said Brent Roozen with RoozenGaarde Tulips, one of the two main fields who participate in the festival. And it's had the opposite effect, with those who experienced the past two years thinking they need to come early now, coming *too* early:

"A good number of people came looking for the tulips in mid-March when the daffodils had barely arrived," Roozen said.

He said the cold December and January had a more profound effect on the daffodil bloom -- they always come first before the tulips.

"We were about 3-4 weeks behind last year's (super early) bloom!" Roozen said.

But although the daffodils were late this year, the tulips are trending more toward an average start time as temperatures over the past several weeks in the Skagit Valley have been closer to normal.

"So the tulips have caught up just a bit and we are seeing a whole bunch of buds that are real close to becoming blooms," Roozen said. "As we move into next week we expect to see a wave of color coming… so in a week to 10 days, we should be filled with color and that will likely stay with us through the end of the month."

And unlike the past two years where the show was over as we headed past mid-April, this year's show could last through the festival -- and beyond?

"If these 50-degree temperature linger through the month, the tulips might even hang around into May – assuming those not good for tulip weather conditions stay away!" Roozen said. "No promises though..."

Record rains not having much effect on the blooms

Roozen says temperature is much of a factor when it comes to tulips than rainfall.

"Wet is wet and it almost never gets too wet for tulips," Roozen said. "We've seen some drowning out of bulbs in our daffodil fields, and as I spend more time in the tulips will likely notice it there too, but nothing real crazy."

The tulips do well no matter what Mother Nature dishes out because the Skagit Valley has the perfect climate for growing tulips.

Roozen says three things that would damage a crop are incredible amounts of rain, a prolonged hard freeze with temperatures in the teens or low 20s, and/or large hail. But even our rainy springs like our current season are more of a persistence issue than a quantity issue; temperatures that frigid in March are nearly unheard of, and hail is pretty rare. Rain will make it muddy for the flower lovers to get their prized photos, but the tulips don't really mind so much.

Things to watch for this month would be if we suddenly get a prolonged period of warmer-than-normal temperatures, it could shorten the season. But so far, long range forecasts for April suggest continued near normal temperatures for the month, meaning the festival should be good to go!


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