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2011 People’s Choice Tulip Contest

May 6, 2011

by Darren Boysen

2011 People’s Choice Tulip Contest Locations. (Courtesy- Google Maps)

For the fourth year running flower aficionados and novices both can vote for their favorite tulip at one of three choice spots in Albany. The 2011 People’s Choice Tulip Contest – with judging posts at the Albany Visitor’s Center, the Albany Institute of Art and History and the Woman’s Club of Albany – runs to mid May.  All three locations have contest ballots.

Albany’s signature flower, the tulip, native to Holland, thrives in the northeast’s cold fall evenings and gradual warm spring weather, according to  Ronnie Siegul, a master gardener for Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The winning tulip of the People’s Choice Contest is usually announced during the Tulip Festival. Due the cold weather in April, Judy Stacey said the tulips were about 10 days behind schedule while some tulips have not even opened yet. “You have to be very flexible with mother-nature” said  Stacey, head gardener of Albany’s Department of General Services. Tulips’ running behind schedule because of cold weather is nothing new for the Tulip Festival as the 1988 Times Unionarticle points out.

Times Union article from 1988.

The city of Albany donates the tulip bulbs that are used in the contest. The city’s Department of General Services planted 300 bulbs at Albany’s Visitor Center. The Albany Institute of Art and History received 350 donated tulip bulbs planted from the  volunteer group, Albany Seedy Gardeners. The Woman’s Club of Albany received 250 bulbs which were planted by their gardening committee.

The Woman’s Club of Albany, on Madison Avenue, planted 600 tulip bulbs overall with 15

The Woman’s Club of Albany, Albany Institute of Art and History, and Albany’s Visitor Center. (Darren Boysen)

different types. “You only have so much control and hope for the best,” said Charlotte Prior, who oversees the gardening at the club.

“It’s disappointing the tulips haven’t blossomed yet but the flowers are very pretty,” said Dena Ethridge, Madison Avenue resident, who was recently checking out a garden. Ethridge, who lives across from Washington Park, said it’s nice to see the neighborhood and park come alive after a long winter.

Stacey and her seven person crew help revive Washington Park after each winter. The gardening crew is in charge of all the city’s planting, including Washington Park, which offers 146 different types of tulip bulbs planted the previous fall. The crew plants bulbs from October through December.  On average each crew member planted 600 bulbs an hour. The gardening crew is made up of two full-time employees and five seasonal workers who are employed from mid April to the beginning of December.

Work begins before the snow even melts when the gardeners start pruning bushes, Stacey said. Once the snow has melted the gardening crew inspects damage from winter and the snowplows. Next the gardening crew clears fallen branches, twigs, garbage and puts the stake and chains in their proper places around the flower beds.

“Back problems are not allowed, we have to stay in shape,” said Stacey joking about the daunting task of planting 263,000 bulbs last fall. With as much preparation that goes into planting Albany’s tulips she said, “it’s important to note mother-nature has the final say on when the tulips will blossom.” -30-

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