Meet Joe van der Vlugt. You may not know him by name, but if you were one of the thousands of visitors of the Chicago Flower and Garden Show last week, you likely saw the results of his work. Joe was the creative force behind the Off to the Races garden that featured a beautiful display of dozens of tulip varieties from Doornbosch Bros. His work focuses on how to force tulips into bloom for sale by florists and for off-season displays and shows.
Joe was gracious enough to take the time to discuss the garden's design and construction with me. Each of the tulips was grown in a peat pot and forced into bloom at a local greenhouse. The night before the show opened, each tulip was hand placed into a sand base. Care was taken to level the tops of the tulips to maintain a uniform display. I visited the show on Saturday, the first of its nine day run, so the whole garden looked pristine. In order to keep this condition throughout the entire show, Joe and his crew would have to rip out the whole garden on Wednesday after the show closed. New tulips would be set in place overnight to greet Thursday morning's visitors with a fresh display.
The garden was designed to showcase a few dozen varieties of tulips, all of which are available from Doornbosch Bros. Each variety was arranged in a 2'x2' square and labeled so visitors could easily note their favorites to purchase in the vendor area. The garden's simple elegance was the most beautiful of the show. After talking with Joe van der Vlugt about the garden and the bulb industry, became the most educational as well.