Tulips Make A Comeback

Bulbs planted in February outside the Business Centre in Crossapol have added a vivid splash of colour to Tiree’s late spring. And this week, the Dutch bulb grower who donated the bulbs made the trip from Holland to see how they had turned out. It’s a long story. Aad van Ruiten, 75, took over the family bulb farm at Noordwijkerhout, halfway between Amsterdam and The Hague. The company is now known as FlowerBoost and run by Aad’s son and daughter-in-law. A local flower festival in April organised by Aad attracts over one million visitors. As a young man, Aad studied horticulture in Britain, becoming friends with a young man, whose family farm in Lochgilphead was later bought by Baxter Nisbet. Dr Nisbet, as a young horticulturalist, worked as a consultant for the Hebridean Bulb Growers Ltd, set up in 1957. Tiree was their first and principal centre of operations, and many crofters grew tulips and daffodils for a decade. Eventually, the island’s small-scale production and frequent wind damage forced the company to close in the face of an increasingly dominant Dutch bulb industry and crumbling import quotas. Aad and his wife Corry have visited Scotland over fifty times over the years. They became friends with Baxter Nisbet, and their conversation often returned to the Tiree bulb industry. At the turn of the year, he sent a large box of tulip bulbs to An Iodhlann, including the varieties Yellow Flight, Passionale, Match, Carnaval de Rio, White Flag, Oriental Beauty and Golden Parade.One red variety, Roosevelt, previously grown on Tiree, is now no longer commercially produced, and Aad went to considerable trouble to get the last bulbs from the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. Despite the grey conditions on Monday, Aad and Corry enjoyed their visit to the Business Centre, where the tulips, one month behind the Dutch crop, were in full bloom. He showed several of the Trust officers – Andy, Donna and Steph – how to behead the flowers, allowing the plants’ strength to stay in the bulb. He has donated another huge box of bulbs. There are still several fields on Tiree, for example in Ruaig,where daffodils from the 60s brighten the spring.We hope Tiree’s new tulip field will be doing the same for the next fifty years. Although Holland, now the producer of almost half the world’s flowers and bulbs, has a bit of a head start, Tiree could grow to challenge this position. Although a million visitors a year might be a challenge. Thank you Aad and see you both next year!

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