Felton man grows 3,578 tulips in his yard

FELTON — Up to 1,000 blooming tulips are a beautiful sight.

Robert Rowley grew roughly 3 1/2 times that this spring, 3,578 to be exact.

“This year I went a little overboard,” he said in a most understated way. “I went to all these stores to buy everything I could.

“I just wanted to see if all of them would come up and they all did.”

The overall experience, Mr. Rowley said, “was a feeling of accomplishment, a very satisfying feeling because I was able to do something extraordinary.”

It’s no wonder vehicles regularly crept past his Jump School House Road home (where his family has lived for 30 years) to enjoy the view. The flowers were situated mostly in the front and side of his residence for all to see.

Other drivers stopped to visit. Mr. Rowley learned tulips are prevalent in at least one European country.

Robert Rowley

“One guy said he’s ‘been to Holland before and it looks like I’m back in Holland,’ ” Mr. Rowley said.

According to Holland.com, “The tulip was introduced in the Netherlands in 17th century when Holland was a wealthy country. Rich merchants had enough money and started trading bulbs on the stock market, similar to futures.

“Bulbs were overpriced (like the internet bubble) and investors began to cash their profits.”

All the colors

While bright reds are his favorites, “There’s such a differing range of colors. There’s red, orange, white yellow, pink, some mixed pink and white, with other mixes too.”

Hummingbirds hovered around the widespread flowers as well.

“I don’t know why – there’s no nectar,” Mr. Rowley said. “I guess they’re just fascinated by the color.”

In early February, Mr. Rowley searched every area Walmart and Lowe’s store and bought every bulb available. They were typically marked 90 percent off with a low demand due to optimal fall planting before the ground freezes. At full price, the bulbs generally run about 50 cents each.

He’d regularly pay about $1,790, but the discounts slashed them to about $179.

“I shouldn’t say when and where I got them because others might do it too but I will anyway,” said the retired journeyman meat cutter.

By mid-February bulbs were in the ground and arose about two months later in April.

“They were planted a little late but it was no problem,” Mr. Rowley said.
Alas, in early May the beautiful, attention-getting petals shed from the stalk. About 40 percent of them will return if sheared to the ground and left alone. Mr. Rowley landscapes around his one-acre spread at his wife’s design direction; he’s grown tulips for the past five years.

“She’s the brains I just follow her vision of what should go where,” he said.
There’s plenty to grow in two 8 feet wide by 30 feet long beds. Azaleas, small pines and dogwood trees fill them up.

After watching his wife garden for years, Mr. Rowley decided to try it himself.

“My wife was big on it and when I saw how much fun she had with it I thought I would give it a try,” he said.

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