A Family Legacy in Full Bloom
From Holland roots to high-tech greenhouses, the Roozen family's passion for tulip bulbs and cut flowers continues to grow.
When you think of farming and agriculture, you probably think of cash crops like potatoes, wheat, or corn. Washington is well known for its agricultural diversity, and that includes non-edible commodities as well. Washington Bulb Co. is a family-owned and -operated flower farm in Skagit County. The largest tulip bulb grower in the country, Washington Bulb Co. sells bulbs and cut flowers to large grocery store chains and wholesale distributors all over the United States.
The Roozen family has a centuries-old heritage of growing flower bulbs. The family began growing tulips in Holland in the mid-1700s and emigrated to the Skagit Valley in 1947. The Roozen family started Washington Bulb Co. and Roozengaarde in 1985, and have built a business that is world-renowned. Over the years, the Roozens have built and installed 16 high-tech glass greenhouses to facilitate flower production all year long. They have also planted and maintained over 1,000 acres of flowers that cover the Skagit Valley in brilliant color. Growing flowers is in their blood, and it shows by the incredible volume and quality of flowers they ship across the country each day.
Ben Roozen, a third-generation flower farmer at Washington Bulb Co., can trace his roots all the way to Holland where the Roozens have grown tulips for many generations before him. “Tulips are obviously synonymous with the name Roozen,” he says. “Interestingly enough, Roozen means rose in Dutch. There’s some irony there.” Not only does Washington Bulb Co. grow tulips, but also irises and daffodils.
Leo Roozen, the lead grower, is a sixth-generation tulip grower. “We grow cut flowers 52 weeks out of the year, and so we’re in the greenhouses year-round.” The greenhouses are designed with multiple different watering systems, temperature controls, and ventilation systems to keep foliage dry. Once flowers is mature and ready for harvesting, the bulbs are cut off, and the fresh flowers are sold and shipped to customers all over. To maintain a steady supply of flowers, bulbs are started and “forced” to a specific growth stage, at which they are frozen for storage.
Then, bulbs can be pulled from storage and planted when a new stand of flowers is ready to be transitioned into the greenhouses. Within 12 days, fresh flowers are ready to be cut, packaged, and shipped.
Washington Bulb Co. grows around 30 million tulips each year, but they are also the largest tulip bulb producer in the U.S. After cut flowers are harvested, their bulbs are stored and cured in large bins before being sold and shipped. Maintaining proper airflow through the bulb storage facilities is imperative to ensure proper curing. Leo Roozen shares, “When they come out of the field, they are wet ... they not only have to dry but cure and go into dormancy.” Dormant bulbs mean they won’t sprout in transit and make for picture-perfect tulips wherever they may be planted.
The Skagit Valley is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest. It’s also one of the best places in the world to grow flowers. The Roozen family has a history that spans all the way to Holland, and when looking at a map, you can see that the valley sits at a similar latitude to the Netherlands. The land of windmills and tulips has very similar conditions to that of the Skagit Valley. When the Roozen family arrived in the area nearly three generations ago, it was obvious that their tulip-growing business would flourish. When asked what makes the valley such an excellent place to grow bulbs, Leo Roozen says, “We have this mild maritime climate. We don’t get the extremes on either end.” Consistent temperatures and adequate rain create the perfect environment for tulips to bloom!
Washington Bulb Co. has been a pillar in the Skagit Valley for decades and will continue to provide immaculate views in their display gardens at RoozenGaarde, produce millions of incredible flowers, and support Skagit Valley agriculture for generations to come. The beauty of Washington Bulb Co. isn’t just the tulips they raise, but the family mission that has withstood the tests of time.