This Year’s Tulip Festival has Sprouted!

You know it’s officially spring on the UWS when the annual Tulip Festival kicks off at the West Side Community Garden, located at 123 West 89th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues. The popular (and free) festival started Saturday (April 13) and runs through early May.

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Each fall, volunteers plant more than 13,000 tulip bulbs in the beds along the garden’s winding walkways in anticipation of a spectacle of color in the spring. The waiting is over and the tulips, now in bloom, are putting on a floral show that is already drawing delighted visitors. The festival is as much a celebration of spring as it is of tulips, the name of which is believed to stem from the Persian word for turban, due to their shape.

April 13, 14, 20 and 21 are “information days,” when volunteers will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to answer questions from the public about the tulips and the garden.

“It’s going great,” WSCG board president Judy Robinson said on Saturday, opening day. “We are getting our usual gorgeous display.”

ALSO READ: An Interview with Judy Robinson of the West Side Community Garden

The garden will be open every day from early morning until dusk.

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The festival is made possible by support from the Lily Auchincloss Foundation and Con Edison, and from generous donations from the public. Ms. Robinson said the bulbs cost roughly $9,000 and are purchased from two vendors with roots in the Netherlands, considered the tulip capital of the world. Visitors interested in learning more about the tulips – or maybe wondering what variety a particular tulip in the garden is – can borrow a tulip guide from the desk at the entrance, which lists what bulbs were planted where.

2024 tulip festival

The event attracts visitors not only from the UWS but also from throughout the city and beyond. Don’t stop with just the tulips. Many other spring flowers will also be in bloom, turning the landscaped swath of land into a rainbow of colors under a canopy of flowering trees. Volunteers plan the arrangement and planting of flowers so that there’s always something in bloom.

“There’s a whole new garden every few days,” Ms. Robinson said.

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She says several varieties of tulips are chosen in order to have some blooming early, then in the middle of tulip season, and then later on. The more classic cup-shape tulips are the early ones and are in bloom right now. The double-petal “fluffy” variety (sometimes called peony tulips) will follow, and later still, the pointy fringed tulips will sprout.

Tulips often bloom again each year as they are perennials, but these tulips usually don’t, so they must be planted each fall anew, Ms. Robinson tells us. There are several reasons for this, the primary one being that tulips must remain fallow in full sun for six to eight weeks after their leaves have fallen in order to regrow each year. Only then should they be cut back. The garden doesn’t receive enough full sun each day to meet the tulips’ needs—full sun is considered at least six hours. Ms. Robinson explained that if the thousands of tulips were left withering and browning for up to two months in the beds, there would be no room for new flowers as the season progresses. This would result in a very dreary and dull-looking garden for the remainder of spring and summer. And so after they’ve turned, the tulip is cut back.

The festival dates back several decades and was started after late volunteer Charles Jones started planting bulbs with the idea of creating an annual spring event paying homage to the flower. In time, it became a tradition. In a nod to Mr. Jones and his legacy, a photo of him is posted on the garden’s outdoor bulletin board during each year’s festival.

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Called a neighborhood sanctuary, the WSCG is an idyllic and beloved urban oasis. It would probably qualify as a hidden best-kept secret if the volunteers who run it weren’t so eager to welcome the public to walk through its tall wrought iron gates and enjoy the gardens, bird songs and peaceful surroundings. Meet a friend for a cup of coffee, sit on a bench and read or have lunch, the WSCG website suggests. The garden is sandwiched between two apartment buildings and spans the entire block’s length between 89th and 90th streets. The garden is maintained entirely by volunteers and has 30,000 square feet of vegetation, flowers, vegetable plots and scenic landscaping. Each year, an estimated 5,000 people enjoy the garden.

Learn more at westsidecommunitygarden.org and follow @westsidecommunitygarden on Instagram.


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