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Washington Park tulips are early -- and beautiful

Bloom.

The tulips in Albany's Washington Park are at their peak. Officially. The city actually sent out a press release today to make sure the word got around because the flowers are so early this year.

That's a little funny, but it speaks to how much tulips are part of Albany's identity. And people would be disappointed if they missed out.

We stopped by the park today to check out the blooms. We ran into Jessica Morgan, Albany's new city gardener. She got dealt tough hand in her first year.

"It's terrible luck!" she said to us, laughing, as we watched people admire the beds of flowers.

There are handful of large-format photos from this year's tulip display above -- scroll all the way up.

Morgan said the tulips are about a month early this year. City crews plant the bulbs for each spring the October before and nature usually takes care of the timing for each year's festival -- the ground thaws in early April and it takes about a month for the tulips to bloom after that. But this winter the ground never really got that cold, and the 80 degree days in March just threw everything off schedule.

She says they tried to hold the bulbs back by covering them in extra topsoil and mulch. The super warm weather was just too much. And it kept them from using ice in the beds -- a tactic that's been used in other warm springs -- because it would have just melted and the extra water would have rotted the bulbs.

Albany's a little odd -- in a good way -- in that the city gardner is a high profile role. And Morgan has big boots to fill. The former city gardener, Judy Stacey, was a celebrity of sorts around town. But Morgan's been working for the city for nine years. And it sounds like she learned a lot working with Stacey. "She prepared me quite well." As it happened, Stacey was at the park with her dog today taking in the flowers, members of the gardening crew stopping to greet her warmly.

judy stacey jessica morgan city gardener
Judy Stacey (left) and Jessica Morgan

"People feel such pride in the heritage of the tulip here," said Morgan today. "I feel a responsibility to every single citizen to keep things as beautiful as possible."

The city planted 125,000 bulbs this year, according to Morgan. That's down from previous years because of budget cuts. Morgan says Washington Park has the same number of bulbs as it usually does, but some of the beds in the medians around town have fewer flowers.

All those bulbs will get pulled after they bloom. The city will be selling them May 20 at the Washington Park Lakehouse, starting at 8 am -- $5 for a bag of 25.

Comments

Sweet photos! Was wondering about contingency plans to slow things down... and you got the answer. Thx. Park has been pretty busy as of late.

Nice use of "Dutch angle" in #3 since, well, they're Tulips... ;)

Can we get some clarification on the tulip sale? Last year I showed up and was told I had to dig for an hour before being able to buy any tulips. That was fine, but it's better to set that expectation up front rather than have people surprised. Also, it seemed like a ton of people showed up much earlier than the posted start time and thus had first pick to dig up the beds they wanted. What is the real start time?

Thanks for the tulip tip-off. We went today and there were a lot of people strolling around. It was a much more relaxed way to enjoy the tulips than actual Tulip Fest, though I'm looking forward to that too. I was able to lean over to smell the flowers without worrying about being bumped into the beds from behind by the crowds! :)

The bit about icing the bulbs is so interesting! I will add that to my stash of fun facts.

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