Two million tulips are blooming now in Cream Ridge, N.J., and they won’t last long.
Three generations of Jansens, a Dutch American family that owns the Holland Ridge Farm in Monmouth County, are welcoming visitors for as long as the tulip blooms last. The tulips took the Jansens by surprise this year, blooming a week earlier than anticipated two weeks ago.
But the tulip fields are Instagram-ready and have already hosted visitors looking to enjoy nature (and jazz up their social media feeds).
The family’s patriarch, Cornelius Jansen (he goes by Casey), 70, is a son and grandson of tulip farmers. He dreamed of opening this tribute to the famous Dutch tulip fields since immigrating to New Jersey decades ago and opening Holland Greenhouses in Monroe Township. There, the Jansens take advantage of a more reliably tulip-friendly climate year-round. His son, who is also named Cornelius, and also goes by Casey, helped him realize this dream and they opened the farm last year. They aren’t just tulip farmers, though — in autumn their farm features sunflowers.
This is not the superbloom, the rare phenomenon currently seizing the previously drought-plagued West Coast. There, a wet winter soaked the desert, cultivating an empire of wildflowers. Tulips, though a symbol of spring’s delicacy, are hardy enough to remain indifferent to Holland’s rains, according to Casey Jansen Sr.’s daughter Tatjana Jansen.
Instead, tulips are undone by sunlight, which coaxes open their flowers and then rapidly depletes them in the suddenly and relentlessly bright New Jersey spring — hence why these beauties don’t last long.
The unstoppable blooms of California have attracted a flood of tourism, and congested roads and overstretched public workers briefly caused a shutdown the flower fields of Lake Elsinore.
There are no ethical dilemmas to stand between you and these flowers. The tulip bloom at Holland Ridge is laid out in strips, planted by unmanned machines with algorithmic precision and growing in lines like soldiers in a row. The farmers have staggered the planting of the bulbs so as to prolong the full bloom. These are either bands with a potpourri of warring colors, or rivers of serene reds, yellows, mauves, and 197 other cultivars, all under speakers blasting country pop radio. Expect no cool detachment: The Jansens know you want to take pictures.
And flick it up I did. My Instagram story was the longest it’s ever been, and I luxuriated in the incoming “Where is that??” “OMG,” and heart-eyed emojis in my direct messages.
On the day that I visited, there were saris in as many colors as the flowers; face-painting courtesy of a local schoolteacher; horse rides from a neighboring farm, including more than one mini pony (think Parks and Recreation’s Li’l Sebastian); and some incredibly New Jersey food trucks, including Shore Shake, Dags Dippers (tagline: “Everything is better on a stick”), and Eat My Balls (tagline: “Don’t break’a my balls.” They serve arancini, by the way).
In the bakery barn, Bobby ‘D’ Baker crafts desserts inspired by Central New Jersey’s Indian American community. There was also a presentation from an enigmatic Dutchman known only as The Tulip Pollinator, explaining the science of breeding tulips in these uncountable colors.
The seeds have been sown for a new New Jersey tradition. If you make the hour-long drive to Holland Ridge in the next couple of weeks, you can enjoy all this while collecting tulips in a basket handwoven by the daughter of the previous owner of the farm, who still leases the farmhouse.
I was nervous to do this — it felt wrong. When I failed the first time to pull out the tulip, I looked around nervously for someone to scold me. But the Tulip Pollinator, whose name is actually George, a longtime friend of Casey Senior’s and proprietor of his own tulip farm in the Netherlands, showed me the proper technique: Grip from the base, and twist it out of the ground. It was fine for me to enjoy this, to appreciate the tulips by taking them to beautify my home. Now there are nine of them in the vase in my living room.