The Bulb Brand That’s Beautifying Gardens All Over America

Colorblends is turning tulip-planting into an accessible art form.

It's a surefire sign that spring has sprung when tulips begin to blossom, bringing delicate blooms in vibrant colors to yards and gardens all over the country. They don't sprout from thin air, however. For a show-stopping tulip, you need to get to the root of the matter: A high-quality bulb.

Tim Schipper knows bulbs. He's been in the business for 30 years, just like his father, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands after World War II bringing the family business with him. Colorblends, Schipper's Connecticut-based company, ships out millions of bulbs each fall, and though Colorblends' extensive catalog includes hyacinths, alliums, and daffodils, it's their impressive selection of tulips—140 varieties out of the 285 types of bulbs they offer—that have become their calling card. It's not only that Colorblends' bulbs are top-notch, shipped from the Netherlands right to the customer, it's the way the brand combines its bulbs for a multi-hued spin on typical one-color swaths.

In the early 90s, Schipper met a horticulturalist putting various tulip colors together to great effect, and began steering his father's business away from cut-flower growers, and towards landscapers and gardeners. He's been creating coordinated mixtures of tulip varieties to create eye-popping combinations ever since. There's "Sol Array," a mix of big red, yellow and red, and purple double tulips; "Smooch," a rich rose and soft pink pairing; and "Mood Indigo," an elegant royal purple and white blend (to name a few).

It's this unique blending that brings the tulips new life. "A solo player has to be really good to grab your attention, but when it's a duo, a trio, or a quartet, it gets more interesting," Schipper says.

Colorblends sells wholesale bulbs directly to growers, from landscapers to ambitious home gardeners, which also lets Schipper and his staff share their extensive knowledge, including the most vital information: Tulip bulbs must be planted in the fall. Growers in the Netherlands harvest the crop each July, it's cured in August, and arrives in the U.S. by Labor Day so customers can plant their bulbs in October.

According to Schipper, tulips need "sandy, loamy soil, exposure to east, south, or west sun, and good drainage." He suggests thinking like a bulb when considering where to plant: "It's not where you want the bulb to be. It's where the bulb will grow best." You'll also need a long-handled sharp shovel, as bulb planting requires a hefty amount of digging. Tulips love cool temperatures and can flower for weeks in the spring, but a three-day heat wave can do them in— something Schipper attests is part of their historic allure. "They're incredibly flamboyant, yet incredibly fragile," he says. "That's the mystique of the tulip. It's ephemeral. It has its moment, and then it's gone."