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Fancy tulips growing in popularity

Consumers come to the floral department in the supermarket with special expectations and mindsets. The floral department is filled with the fanciful and the delightful. In addition to being a treat for the senses, it is a refuge for shoppers tasked with getting every item on their grocery list.

Shoppers come to the floral department with an open mind, ready to experiment with a new flower or a different style bouquet. They aren’t reading calorie counts or checking nutrition labels — their purchasing is sensory-driven. This mind shift explains the growing popularity of fancy tulips, which I’m using as a catch-all term for the wild and wonderful novelty tulips in the Parrot, Crispa, Doubles and other families.

FANCY-TULIPS-1These fancy tulips were grown by California-based Sun Valley Floral Farms and include the varieties Curly Sue (purple fringe), Honeymoon (white fringe), Apricot Parrot (peach/apricot) and Rai Parrot (light purple).“With the increase in demand for anything “new” or “botanical” we will see more novelty cut bulb flowers used in high fashion and casual floral design,” said floral industry consultant René van Rems. “The current trend of wild and unconventional floral design emphasizes the way novelty cut tulips add value. In strong contrast to rather classic florist arrangements, novelty cut tulips with their continued stem and flower growth” — even after being cut — “add a great flowing line to almost all design. In addition, novelty tulips add a unique range of color that enhances the palette of naturalistic decor.” 

As a floral professional, you are already familiar these tulips — fringed, serrated, frilly, playful and expressive. They seem to defy nature with their irregular edges, both smooth and rough. But surprisingly, many consumers are still new to these unusual flowers.    

J Schwanke, the flower expert at uBloom.com, said, “Texture, texture, texture — the next big advancement in the trend arena is texture and there is no better flower to deliver this than fancy tulips.”

Tulipa gesnerana dracontia is the official name for the variety of cultivated tulips known as Parrots. The bold serrated edges of the tulip petals give them a ruffled appearance — this ruffled look is thought to be very similar to the feathers of a parrot. These feathered and contorted petals really grab consumers’ attention.

“Since tulips are my favorite flower and fancy tulips are the greatest, this isn’t a hard thing to talk about,” said Lani Callister, fresh flower manager-buyer at Ensign Wholesale Floral in Salt Lake City. “My fancy variety picks are Super Parrot, Destiny and Queensland — it’s the texture of the ruffles and frills that set them apart.”

Parrot tulips came on the scene in the early 1900s. They existed before then, however, there was a renaissance of the Parrot as breeders were able to increase stem strength in about 1930. Most of these tulips are technically “mutants” from classic varieties, which have been bred to increase stem strength, stem length and vase life. Some examples are:

• Rococco, a mutation of Couleur Cardinal.

• Super Parrot, a mutation of White Dream.

• Bright Parrot, a mutation of Kees Nelis.

• Libretto Parrot, a mutation of Prominence.

Looking to Europe, international trend watcher and floral designer Pieter Landman said, “Traditionally, novelty tulips have been sold one variety per bunch, but now I am seeing mixed bunches of novelty tulips in special displays in store. On top of this, I’m seeing bigger bunches such as 20 or even 50 stems wrapped in kraft paper.”

Landman couldn’t resist joking that, “I hope that consumers are not going to buy much more of the Crispa tulips, as it’s an enormous job to cut the zigzag petal edges with a scissor.”

All kidding aside, there is an enormous potential to engage and re-engage flower shoppers with these colorful and crazy tulips. Fancy tulips are conversation starters and they represent the epitome of personality in a flower.

Spring is the perfect time to put fancy tulips front and center in your floral department.

Bill Prescott is the marketing communications specialist at the Sun Valley Group in Arcata, CA. He can be contacted at bprescott@tsvg.com.