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Spring in the Netherlands

Our friend Patrick forwarded us an email containing some images of the tulip fields of northen Netherlands in Spring time. They were a lot like those from the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, CA. The images also reminded us of one of our favorite Hockney paintings. The Dutch landscape in May is a patchwork of purple, yellow, red, pink, orange and green. Each year, more than three billion tulips are grown there, with two-thirds of the blooms destined for export to the U.S. and Germany.

Anyone who has taken Econ 101 knows of the great Dutch tulip bubble of 1637. At it’s peak, a single highly-desired tulip bulb could fetch a price 10x higher than the annual income of a skilled worker at the time. Crazy! Like all bubbles, it eventually burst. Unlike some bubbles (cough, housing market, cough), it left Holland a much prettier place than before.

There are over a hundred different species of this perennial bulbous plant. Although most often associated with  The Netherlands, commercial cultivation of the tulip began in the Ottoman Empire. The tulip, or lale as it is also called in Iran and Turkey, is a flower indigenous to a large part of Africa, Asia, and Europe.

For the next few months, everything is picture-postcard beautiful. However, this colorful landscape is a short-lived phenomenon. When the flowers are gone, the land will be cultivated for a rather more mundane crops. Fear not, the fields will be replanted with million of bulbs again by next October.

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