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Tulip Season Draws Crowds in Washington

Some half a million tourists and gardening fans will visit Washington state's Skagit Valley in the next few weeks, drawn to the area's fields of blooming tulips.

The Skagit Valley, a lush area near the coast between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, dominates the North American tulip industry, producing a variety of bulbs -- and hundreds of acres of blooming tulips.

As seems likely, this much devotion to tulips ultimately has its roots in Holland. William Roozen, who emigrated from Holland in 1947, adapted his planting experience to develop a tulip-growing business, adding acre after acre to his enterprise. He eventually bought the Washington Bulb Company, the area's original tulip supplier, in 1955.

The company, still run by the Roozen family, now cultivates over 400 acres of tulips, in a wide range of varieties that differ in color, size and shape. And with hundreds more acres devoted to growing daffodils and irises, the company reports selling 50 million stems of fresh cut flowers each year, along with millions of bulbs.

As the annual Tulip Festival gets under way, NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports on the region's affinity for tulips, and the Roozen family's knack for the business.

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