There is no symbol more emblematic of the month of May than the tulip, the spring-blooming perennial that occurs in (almost) every color of the rainbow. We recently paid a visit to Heirloom Fresh Flowers—a family-run flower farm in Putnam County—where the father-and-daughter duo of Emilia Costa and Dr. José M. Costa is busy picking and arranging stems from their wide array of tulip varietals.
Dr. Costa, a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, is an expert on the breeding and genetics of wheat and barley. But when his daughter had the idea to develop a small-scale flower farm at their residence, the “semi-retired” academic agreed to lend a hand. Now, their backyard is a floral wonderland. Compared to wheat or barley, “it’s a different mindset, growing flowers,” says Dr. Costa. “It’s more challenging—we’re figuring out how to use the space we have.” They didn’t purchase their property with a prospective flower business in mind, and their land is quite hilly and rocky. To combat the soil’s rockiness, the Costas have begun to use hügelkultur, a horticultural technique where a farmer builds a garden bed from rotting organic matter like logs and leaves. Their harvest proves that flora can flourish, even in less ideal conditions, with the right care, attention, and willingness to experiment. “I love the flowers, I love sharing them—they make people happy,” says Emilia. “I really think they can speak to you on another level.”
Once the flowers are ready to pick, Emilia uses them to construct arrangements for weddings, special events, and local retailers like The Flowerhouse 10547, Ascend Center, Palmera, and Putnam Valley Market. Additionally, she hosts flower workshops with fresh-cut stems—a wonderful way to up the ante of any ladies’ night, a bachelorette party, birthday, or baby shower. Heirloom Fresh Flowers provides all the tools and tips you need to create a stunning bouquet, table arrangement, or flower crown, making for a unique, hassle-free experience.
For more information about how to book a service or shop stems, head to the Heirloom Fresh Flowers website or follow the Costas on Instagram.
10 Fun Facts About Tulips
In the spirit of tulip season, we’ve assembled 10 fun facts about the flower of the hour.
1. The word “tulip” derives from “dulband,” a Persian word meaning “turban.”
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2. There are over 3,000 varietals of tulips, each with distinct visual characteristics.
3. Tulips have some heavy DNA. Whereas the weight of DNA in a human nucleus is around 7 pictograms (one-millionth of a millionth of a gram), the DNA in tulip nuclei range from 32 to 69 pictograms.
4. Tulips are native to the Tien Shan Mountains in Central Asia.
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5. Tulips are part of the lily family, Liliaceae, along with plants like asparagus, onions, garlic, chives, and shallots. Believe it or not, tulips are edible, and were used in food during the Dutch famine of 1944-45.
6. Have you ever seen a multicolor, or “striped,” tulip? Their striking pattern is actually due to a virus.
7. Tulips were at the center of what many believe to be the first speculative bubble (that’s an economic term referring to a period when the price of a commodity far exceeds its intrinsic value). To this day, the phrase “tulip mania” is used to refer to large economic bubbles.
8. Forget to buy onions at the grocery store? No worries! You can use a tulip bulb in place of an onion when cooking.
9. Tulips are the national flower of Holland, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey.
10. One of the largest tulip festivals in the United States happens right here in the Hudson Valley!
Related: How to Deter Deer From Your Yard in the Hudson Valley