After vacation, it was back to work finishing up the fall bulb orders for Deepwood and Gaiety Hollow. I had one European company tell me that some bulbs are in short supply this year. This may be due to the early Covid-19 lockdown in Europe and reduced international air travel.
Here is an interesting anecdote from my recent catalog research on recreating Gaiety Hollow’s 1956 historic bulb planting plan. I noticed that Wayside Garden’s 1944 catalog had a tiny quarter-page listing for tulips. In contrast, the years before and after had pages and pages of the ubiquitous bulbs so loved by Edith and Elizabeth.
It so happens that during the last winter of World War II, the Allied forces participated in the failed Operation Market Garden, otherwise known as the Battle of Arnhem. The Allies attempted to retake the area by the Dutch/German border utilizing paratroopers and ground forces. Ultimately, the Nazis stopped the Allies before the Rhine River, resulting in the deaths of 500 Dutch civilians, 15,000 allied troops and 8,000 Nazis.
The winter of 1944-45, later known as the Hongerwinter or “Dutch Hunger Winter”, found civilians in the famous bulb growing region facing starvation. The population was forced to live on rations of 400-800 calories per day; to survive, people ate grass and tulip bulbs. As the season’s tulip crop had not yet been planted, people turned to tulip bulbs as a carbohydrate-rich food source. Tulip bulbs were promoted by food agencies as a surrogate for potatos, and local newspapers shared recipes for tulip bulb soup, porridge, mashed tulip bulbs, vegetables with tulip bulbs, fried and roasted bulbs, and savory and sweet tulip bulb cookies.
No matter how bad the current times seem, and even if we have a shortage of tulips this year for the garden display, I feel it’s important to take time to be thankful for what we do have. Times may be tough, but it’s not 1944 and we aren’t having to eat the tulips stored in the Gaiety Hollow garage for the coming planting season. I’m thankful to work at an organization with so many dedicated volunteers and under the leadership of a kind and thoughtful executive director and a board with diverse talents. I’m thankful for my health and the health of my family.
I have a friend who lived through that winter in Holland as a child, and he and his family ate tulip bulbs. When asked about it he said “though they were slightly poisonous, they still tasted better than beet root.”