“We make our bulb fields as beautiful as possible, mixing the colors and putting a windmill and benches in the middle,” says Edwin Koeman.
In the two collecting gardens that he and his partner Nitsuhe Wolanios now have in Italy, visitors can enjoy floral splendor, and the €4 per person ticket also includes two tulips.
pay extra to choose
If they want to pick more tulips themselves, visitors have to pay more for it. The amount varies. At the beginning of the season that is 1 euro per tulip, later, when everything is in full bloom, 1.50 per tulip.
“People here like flowers very much, but flowers are much more expensive here than in Germany, for example. When Italians buy flowers, they buy fewer flowers, but very pretty ones,” says Koeman.
More than 1 million bulbs
So a second Keukenhof, but in Italy? Koeman does not want to make that comparison. In their Tulipani Italiani (literally: Italian tulips) they still plant the tulip bulbs by hand and the set is still slightly smaller than the Keukenhof, Koeman explains.
But it’s still an impressive number of bulbs that have buried themselves and are blooming. At the site near Milan where Tulipani Italiani started, there are around 600,000 flower bulbs.
And near Turin, another northern Italian city, where Koeman also planted land for the first time this year, there are another 470,000 bulbs. Less than the Keukenhof’s 7 million, but altogether it’s still over 1 million pieces.
Italians like to come here. “At that time, we were the first in Italy where visitors could pick flowers themselves,” says Koeman.
“There were quite a few skeptics who thought it wouldn’t work, but the first year was an immediate success and we expanded after that.”
waiting for dry weather
During the week, Koeman is very happy with a thousand visitors a day. But during the holidays they sometimes double. But most of the Italians come on weekends. Then Koeman and Wolanios receive between 5,000 and 9,000 visitors per day.
But then it shouldn’t rain, because then there will be much fewer people. “Then you lose a large amount of turnover,” says Koeman.
It comes from the tulip family.
It should come as no surprise that Koeman likes tulips. “I come from a family of tulips,” he says. Koeman worked, among other things, for a flower bulb exporter, a flower bulb trade market and a tulip nursery.
When Koeman’s brother opened a collection garden in the US, he helped there for a while. Something like that seemed like something to Koeman, but now it is difficult to enter the US. For one of his previous jobs he had to learn Italian and Koeman decided seven years ago to make the leap to Italy with his teammate Nitsuhe Wolanios.
Take turns to Turin
It was a hectic time, especially at the beginning, also because Koeman and his partner have two children together. Now they have a cleaning lady and a babysitter for the first time, but they have to, because they take turns going to Turin for a few days to fix things for their picking garden there.
Little by little the organization gets bigger. But finding staff is difficult, also because it is a seasonal job. That is why Koeman has to find new people in most of him every year.
The collecting gardens are only open for a few weeks, from about March 20 through the end of April, Koeman says. Initially she thought she would have plenty of time in the rest of the year, she says, but that’s disappointing.
“I’m busy with administration for the entire month of May, and because it’s now open seven days a week, there’s not much you can do. So that has to be fixed later.”
It’s a bit quieter in the summer, but it starts again in September, because then we have to see which bulbs have worked best and then buy them. In addition, a new permit must be applied for each year.
‘This weekend is going to be crazy’
Koeman, therefore, does not plan to expand to other locations at the moment. At most, he considers extending the blooming season by planting flower bulbs that bloom before the tulips, and with flowers that bloom after the tulips, such as lilies. So more visitors can come.
This Easter weekend, Koeman and his partner are sure to be very busy. “It’s going to be crazy,” she says.
In this video you can see that high gas prices have made this way of growing tulips from grower Niels even more interesting: