Stunned now by the masses of beautiful tulips blooming throughout the Upper East Side, and thankful we can love them as flowers as opposed to the bitcoin of 1636, the filmmaker Whit Stillman wrote in a message on Twitter after posting a photograph of a bright yellow tulip bed on Park Avenue.
Indeed, many individuals have noted and recorded the flowers sprouting from medians, sidewalk planters, parks and gardens around the city.
“I believe they absolutely look more stunning than I’ve recalled in years,” Olivia Rose, the owner of a plant design studio, wrote in an email about the tulips she’s observed on First Avenue near the United Nations building. “ Accepting tulip strolls has been a daily action. I think that the street beds in the past five years have gotten a lot better in general. ”
Have the tulips changed or have we?
“I can’t tell if they’re more beautiful than last year or if I’m so traumatized and downtrodden from the year’s occasions I’m just happier to see them,” Dasha Nekrasova, an actress and a host of the podcast “Red Scare,” wrote in a message on Instagram. “They definitely seemed abundant and caused me to reflect with gratitude on the care and attention by which someone planted them. ”
Puja Patel, the editor in chief of the music website Pitchfork, said that on her walks around the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn, the tulip beds have been impossible to ignore. To me, they looked larger than usual, she said. “And there was a stronger variety of colors, almost like they were velvety in texture — honestly, the most glowing version of the tulips that I have seen in Brooklyn in my 10 years of living here. ”
So yes: After a year of languishing, New York is flourishing. More so than usual?
Matthew Morrow, the director of horticulture for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, stated in an interview that the city planted the identical number of tulip bulbs as it does most years: approximately 110,000 citywide.
Other tulips in town are planted by private groups, like the Fund for Park Avenue, a nonprofit that keeps the flowers on the avenue between 54th and 86th Streets. In an email, Barbara McLaughlin, the finance ’s president, said the group had planted 60,000 bulbs, just as it does every year.
So, how to explain the excitement for this year ’s blooms ?
At the start of the pandemic, demand for tulips plummeted as events were canceled and flower shops closed their doors all around the world. 1 Dutch grower stated in an interview with the CBC that his firm hauled away a billion flowers. But over the course of last year, sales were up quite a bit, said Jan Doornbosch, a tulip importer who conducts the International Bulb Company. “That goes for the entire gardening industry. ”
Dimitri Gatanas, the owner of Urban Garden Center in Manhattan, said that bulbs and plants of all sorts were flying off shelves amid the year’s “planting craze . ”
Liza Franquinha, the branding and events manager for Crest Garden Center in Williamsburg, wrote in an email: “In 2020 we had a lot more requests from independent community groups for garden supplies. I believe people are using public spaces more and need them to be beautiful, and are going out and doing rogue planting. ”
Mr. Gatanas also said that over the last year he has received a surge of new business from landlords and real estate agents, who hired him for “curb appeal” projects. These landlords are attempting to place the peacock feathers up and attract more new tenants, he said.
Mr. Doornbosch estimated that his commercial clients, including landscape contractors hired by landlords to beautify streets, spent “ about 20 percent more” than usual on bulbs last year.
Weather may have played a role in enhancing this year’s crop. We had 24 consecutive days with snow on the ground in February, which goes a long way to keeping the soil moist in a time when those bulbs are producing roots,” said Mr. Morrow, of the parks department.
This can increase both the amount and quality of the tulips, he said : “That stronger root system ensures that they can absorb more nutrients and just provide more energy into putting out essentially what plants are bred for, which is to get a huge, beautiful blossom. ”
The cold weather might even have coaxed bulbs planted in preceding years to bloom again, Mr. Morrow said, although tulips in america typically bloom just once (unlike in cooler climates like the Netherlands, where they often thrive perennially).
This past year, Mr. Morrow added in an email, a warmer winter was “ marginally ” less amenable to tulip growth.
But temperatures in New York don’t fully explain the phenomenon: After all, the blossom shock isn’t just neighborhood. People throughout the country have remarked on what seems like a bumper crop for spring blooms ( like, in a phone call, this reporter’s mother in the Bay Area).
The past week or so, Ive been astounded by the beauty and the number of tulips its like theyre in each front yard I pass, Adam Bexten, a St. Louis resident, wrote in a message on Twitter. “ I’d begun my daily walks this time last year, but I don’t remember seeing all of these beautiful flowers. ”
Some are chalking it up to exuberance as people edge back toward normalcy.
“ Everyone ’s considering this spring with another pair of eyes, right? ” Mr. Gatanas said. “If you abandon a prison or a cave after six months, you know, even a butterfly will look like a work of art. ”
Mr. Morrow noted that “there’s a hopeful feeling in the air. And then a vibrant tulip kind of heightens that impact, ” he said. “I know it does for me. ”
Christopher F. Chabris, a research psychologist who has studied selective attention, said there may be “a memory phenomenon happening here. ”
A couple of days ago, I was discovering all the white flowering trees in central Pennsylvania and Im sure Ive seen them before, but for some reason they felt more notable this year, he said in a phone interview.
He suggested that, because of the pandemic, “we have fewer recent experiences of being amazed by the spring flowers, so that they become even more impressive. ”
And when people did venture out this past year, they were probably focused on social distancing and fear of the virus, he said, not on spring blossoms.
With memories of last years crop diminished by people of early-pandemic panic, the tulips produce a greater impression on you, not because theyve been erased from your memory before, but since you have less recent memories of them, he said, comparing the sight of the flowers into the taste of the food that you havent eaten in a while. ”
And once you begin to notice something, it’s difficult to stop. Dr. Chabris mentioned the titular experimentation from his book, “The Invisible Gorilla,” in which many people failed to see a man in a gorilla suit walking through a movie scene where they had been instructed to watch people playing basketballs. The thing about the gorilla is many people dont notice it, he said. “But then once they do, it’s kind of hard to take your attention off of it. ”
The same may be happening with tulips.
I saw just two rogue bright red tulips in Jackie Robinson Park a few weeks ago, Yevgeniya Kats, an East Village resident, wrote in a message on Twitter. “It was odd but beautiful, which really set it off for me. I began noticing tulips everywhere. ”
What’s more, a collective emotional state — wounded and weary, but with optimism rising as vaccines bring the end of the pandemic into view — could be priming people to detect hopeful signs. One of the things that determines what we detect and what we pay attention to is what were anticipating, Dr. Chabris said.
Researchers studying vision and attention have found that when people are hoping to see a certain colour, they’re more likely to notice other objects of the exact same color, even if these are not the objects they were advised to look out for.
I think its not unreasonable to say that may operate with emotions, too, he said. “The more something we noticed matches our emotional state, maybe the emotionally positive state of optimism and thinking about the future and so forth, possibly the more likely we are to notice it. ”
On a Tuesday in mid-April, traffic to the annual tulip festival in the West Side Community Garden in Manhattan pondered the link between psychological states and perceptual capacity while soaking in the flowers, almost 100 varieties in all, planted in concentric beds around a little lawn.
Everything is just more beautiful after going through this dreadful year, said Monica Barrett, a property appraiser and environmental activist, gesturing at a patch of tulips striped in psychedelic scarlet, yellow and orange hues. “Looking at these, they’re hypnotizing. It’s almost like I’m high! ”
Judy Disla, a retiree and volunteer at the festival, said: “I’ve seen more all around town. I believe we just love these things so much more today. ”
This past year the garden was locked during tulip season as a pandemic precaution, but she dropped by to look at the flowers through the gate. Weve all become a little more attached to nature than we were, Ms. Disla said. “It’s just made us so much more cognizant of the beauty of nature and the healing power of nature. ”
Judy Robinson, the president of the garden ’s board of directors, explained how people have been telling her and others who they’ve been waiting for this all year: “‘ During this horrible year, the garden has been sustaining me, and you don’t know how much this means to me. ’” She added, “ Folks are so, so happy. ”
Dozens circulated through the backyard above a weekday afternoon, gazing in rapture at the jewel-toned blossoms. At one point, attention shifted from flowers to phones as information of the Derek Chauvin verdict broke.
Its an ecstatic moment, an older man said to a friend, as helicopters jumped over. Soon enough, faces turned back into the flowers, which were swaying gently in the breeze.