The story of how Keriann Koeman came to have upwards of 50,000 tulips planted on her property starts with love, but not necessarily a love of tulips. Koeman, a self described “green girl,” met Jeroen Koeman, who hailed from a Dutch family of tulip growers. They fell in love, got married, and started the first certified organic flower bulb company in the U.S. When left with 70,000 extra bulbs one year, the couple decided to plant them in their yard in Madison and thus the first Eco-Tulip Festival was born.
Four years later, the couple has moved the location of the festival from their own property to that of an artist and festival vendor, MAD Arts owner Janine Jensen. The new location offers more space for activities and workshops as well as enough land for the fields to receive their required rotation. Tulips can leave botrytis, a fungus which can be fatal to the spring flower. Allowing the ground to rest five to six years between plantings is recommended to keep the disease at bay, said Koeman.
“Flowers bring joy,” said Koeman, who looks at the festival as a platform for people to learn about pollinators, a favorite topic of hers. All EcoTulips bulbs are grown without chemicals, which in turn creates a pesticide-free source of pollen, making for happy and healthy pollinators. In addition to carrying tulip bulbs, EcoTulips carries dahlias, daffodils, iris, hyacinths, crocus, and fritillaria.
Meanwhile, visitors to the field of tulips increase every year. This year’s festival featured two gardens of tulips—a show garden, with a centerpiece of the flower planted in the shape of three tulips, surrounded by thousands of flowers, and a picking garden, a breathtaking assortment of tulips available for $1 a stem.
The range of colors and petal styles among the tulips is remarkable. In addition to the standard red and yellow blooms you remember from your grandmother’s garden, Koeman’s range from the showy Rococo, with its ruffly, scalloped petals, to the Orange Van Elk with deep shades of orange and red seamlessly merging in its petals, to the Black Jack, so purple it’s almost black. Many of Koeman’s tulips petals change in color as the bloom matures, adding a progressive element to their beauty.
With plans to expand the blooming field through the season with zinnias, sunflowers, and raspberries, Koeman is going to have plenty of joy to share in the coming months, well beyond the blooming season of her tulips.