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Tiptoe thru the tulips

Yellow.  Red.  White.  Mix the red and white and you have pink.  For over ten years these have been the colors of the hundreds of tulips we plant each year in our yard.  What once started out as an experiment to see how tulips would grow in southwest Georgia has now become a much-anticipated event in the cycle of our life.  This tradition continued after we moved to Auburn.

Tulips have been in existence for almost a thousand years.  In the 1630s, a hundred and fifty years before the United States was founded, tulips became so popular in the civilized world that they became more valuable than diamonds.  

The mania about tulips did not last long, likely because tulips last a few weeks, and, well, diamonds are forever.  Nevertheless, tulips can be planted to be a bright burst of color just as the dreary Winter is coming to an end.  

Why do people love tulips so much, especially since they have a short span as a blooming flower?   I am sure there are many reasons, but I can only tell you why they are the favorites of my wife, Mary Lou, and myself.   They are brilliant colors, with a large enough bloom to make them noticeable from afar.  

They have a certain symmetry, with a singular flower at the top of one stalk.   When the temperature is just right, their shoots come out of the ground almost in unison.  Within days, they are blooming uniformly, creating a blanket of color that cannot be missed.

Tulips are one of the most beloved flowers with more ordered from florists than any other flower.  They continue to grow another inch or so after they are cut and the blooms will last in a vase for a week or so.  However, we seldom cut the tulips in our yard as we enjoy seeing them from our front porch each day.

We also love seeing the cars pass each day, slowing or stopping to take pictures.  We have occasional knocks on the door from people asking for permission to walk around the yard and take photographs.  We are always happy to grant that request, as the tulips are God’s creation, not ours.

Tulips are elegant and simple.  For that reason, they are considered a flower of enduring love and are even the flower that is used for a couple’s 11th anniversary.  We are more than four times past that milestone, but we still love them as much as we ever have.

We order our tulips from the Netherlands, which produce over three billion bulbs a year.  Although roughly fifty percent will come back the next year after blooming and then going dormant, we choose to replace all of the bulbs each year. 

Perhaps our favorite story is that of planting tulips following Hurricane Michael in Donalsonville, which was our home at the time.  The community was devastated, and we personally lost 48 mature trees in our yard.  

The next year, with rebuilding still very much under way, we planted tulips again as a symbol of hope.  People drove by from around the community that year to see the bright flowers blooming when almost everything else was bare.  It was nature’s way of giving hope to a community that had lost so much.  

Almost four years after retiring to Auburn, we are pleased with our latest landscape redesign and the role that tulips play in the yard in the early Spring.  It lifts our spirit and highlights the yearly renewal that nature gives to all of us.

With a week or so left before the 1,200 tulips we planted this year give way to azaleas and dogwoods, take a drive past the tulips on Sanders Street.  Stop if you would like and take a gaze at this wonder of nature.  As always, feel free to tiptoe through the tulips.  You will be glad you did.  


Dan Ponder can be reached at

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