We lived in the Netherlands, Holland Province, in the late 80s. The little village of Wassenaar was just a suburb of the Hague and all the wonders that cosmopolitan city had to offer. But surrounding our village were tulip fields, real honest-to-goodness tulip fields. In the spring we watched the fields as the bits of green pushed up through the furrows and began to grow taller and taller. Soon we could see the bulbs begin to form on the stalks as we drove by. We were getting more excited each day about seeing our first bulb fields up close. Then one day there they were...row upon row of bright red tulips bobbing their beautiful little heads in the breeze. I hurried home, gathered my daughter and off we drove with cameras in hand ready to record this awesome sight. As we approached the fields I couldn't believe my eyes. The red tulip heads were laying in a huge pile next to the road. In the distance we could see large machinery cutting the heads off of each and every tulip plant. Close by us were workers with huge baskets, loading the heads of the flowers and tossing them into the backs of trucks. It was surreal. The stems were short, maybe two inches, so the cut flowers were not intended for florists. Finally one of the men came over and explained that these fields were for bulb production. If the flowers are left on the stalks, they will drain the strength of the bulbs. the flower heads are left on the plant after opening just for a few days and then are cut. Tulips for florists are generally grown in greenhouses.
The short stemmed tulips showed up a few days later in roadside stands as "slingers", (a garland of flowers) to be added to the front bumper of one's car or truck. I loved seeing so many cars festooned with this Dutch debris, as we called it in our house. The Dutch never waste anything! They looked like big Hawaiian leis.
The Dutch export several billion flower bulbs a year and over 10 billion cut flowers a year all over the globe. From the time they are cut in Holland to showing up in a US florist shop can be as few as 48 hours! This is accomplished through the Dutch flower auctions. I visited the Aalsmeer flower auction outside of Amsterdam. It was truly amazing. Be sure to visit the auction no matter what season you there. The public is welcome.
As much as I love tulips, I have had such negative experience with them trying to enjoy them before the deer eat them. I know we have deer at our house, so I will not be planting them here, but they are in bloom around town and I am so enjoying everyone else's floral displays.