In a time of global investment frenzy, New Yorkers seem unable to get enough of one of the world's oldest speculative assets. However, you don't buy. Just admire.
"Today stunned by the masses of beautiful tulips blooming all over the Upper East Side, and glad we can appreciate them as flowers rather than Bitcoin of 1636," filmmaker Whit Stillman wrote in a message on Twitter after joining Photo of a bright yellow tulip bed posted on Park Avenue.
Indeed, many people have noticed and documented the flowers sprouting from medians, planters on the sidewalk, parks and gardens around the city.
"I think they look absolutely gorgeous than I've remembered in years," wrote Olivia Rose, who owns a Plant Design Studio, in an email about the tulips that they saw on First Avenue near the building United Nations has observed. “Tulip walks were a daily activity. I think the street beds have gotten a lot better in general over the past five years. "
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 depressed by the events of the year. I'm just happier to see them," said Dasha Nekrasova, actress and host of the podcast. Red Scare, ”wrote a message on Instagram. "They definitely seemed to be abundant and made me think gratefully about the attention and care someone had planted them."
Puja Patel, editor-in-chief of music website Pitchfork, said the tulip beds were not to be missed on her walks through the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn. "They seemed bigger than usual to me," she said. "And there was a greater variety of colors, almost as if they had a velvety texture – frankly the brightest version of the tulips I've seen in Brooklyn in my 10 years here."
So yes: after a year of disgrace, New York is blossoming. More than normal?
Matthew Morrow, director of horticulture for the New York Department of Parks and Recreation, said in an interview that the city has planted the same number of tulip bulbs it has planted in most years: roughly 110,000 across the city.
Other tulips in the city are planted by private groups, like the Fund for Park Avenue, a nonprofit that tends the flowers on the avenue between 54th and 86th Streets. In an email, Barbara McLaughlin, president of the fund, said the group had planted 60,000 bulbs every year.
How can the enthusiasm for this year's flowers be explained?
At the beginning of the pandemic, demand for tulips collapsed as events were canceled and flower shops around the world closed their doors. A Dutch grower said in an interview with the CBC that his company threw away a billion flowers. But over the past year, "sales have increased significantly," said Jan Doornbosch, a tulip importer who runs the International Bulb Company. "That applies to the entire gardening industry."
Dimitri Gatanas, the owner of the Urban Garden Center in Manhattan, said plants and bulbs of all kinds flew off the shelves in the midst of the year's "planting madness".
Liza Franquinha, Branding and Events Director at Crest Garden Center in Williamsburg, wrote in an email: “In 2020 we had many more requests from independent community groups for gardening needs. I think people use the public space more and want it to be beautiful and go out and plant rogues. "
Mr Gatanas also said he had seen a surge in business over the past year from landlords and real estate agents hiring him on "curb appeal" projects. "These landlords are trying to put the peacock feathers up and attract more new tenants," he said.
Mr. Doornbosch estimated that his commercial customers, including landscaping companies hired by landlords to beautify roads, spent “about 20 percent more” than usual on lightbulbs last year.
The weather could have played a role in improving this year's crop. "We had 24 consecutive days of snow on the ground in February, which goes a long way towards keeping the ground moist during a time when those bulbs are taking root," said Morrow of the parks division.
This can increase both the quantity and quality of the tulips, he said, "This stronger root system means they can take in more nutrients and just provide more energy to basically figure out what these plants are being grown for, which is a huge amount should. beautiful bloom. "
The cold weather may have even caused bulbs planted in previous years to bloom again, Morrow said, although tulips typically only bloom once in the United States (unlike cooler climates like the Netherlands, where they are often perennial thrive).
Last year, Mr Morrow added in an email, a warmer winter was "a little" less suitable for tulip growth.
However, the temperatures in New York do not fully explain the phenomenon: after all, the floral shock is not just local. People across the country have noticed what looks like a spring bloom push crop (including this reporter's mother in the Bay Area on a phone call).
"For the past week I've been amazed at the beauty and abundance of tulips – it's like they're in every front yard I walk past," wrote Adam Bexten, a resident of St. Louis, in a message on Twitter. "I had started my daily walks around this time last year, but I don't remember seeing all of these beautiful flowers."
Some chalk it up to exuberance as people return to normal.
"Everyone looks at this spring with different eyes, right?" Mr Gatanas said. "When you leave a prison or a cave after six months, even a butterfly will look like a work of art."
Mr. Morrow noted that "there is a feeling of hope in the air". "And then a brightly colored tulip enhances this effect," he said. "I know it does for me."
Christopher F. Chabris, a research psychologist who has studied selective attention, said that "there may be a memory phenomenon going on here."
"A few days ago I noticed all the white flowering trees here in central Pennsylvania, and I'm sure I've seen them before, but for some reason they felt more remarkable this year," he said in a phone interview.
He suggested that because of the pandemic, "we have had less recent experience of being impressed by the spring flowers, so they are becoming even more impressive".
And when people set out last year, they likely focused on social distancing and fear of the virus, he said, not spring flowers.
With memories of last year's harvest diminished by early pandemic panic, "the tulips make a bigger impression on you, not because they were previously erased from your memory, but because you have less recent memories of them," he said Compare the sight of flowers to the taste of a food that you haven't eaten in a while.
And once you notice something, it's hard to stop. Dr. Chabris cited the title experiment from his book "The Invisible Gorilla," in which many people did not see a man in a gorilla suit walk through a video scene instructing them to watch people play basketballs. "The thing about the gorilla is that a lot of people don't notice," he said. "But once you do, it's difficult to take your attention away from it."
The same thing can happen with tulips.
"I only saw two bright red tulips in Jackie Robinson Park a few weeks ago," wrote Yevgeniya Kats, an East Village resident, in a message on Twitter. “It was strange, but beautiful, and that really appealed to me. I noticed tulips everywhere. "
Additionally, a collective emotional state – wounded and tired, but with increasing optimism as vaccines bring the end of the pandemic in sight – could lead people to notice signs of hope. "One of the things that determine what we notice and what we pay attention to is what we expect," said Dr. Chabris.
Researchers studying vision and attention have found that people expecting a particular color are more likely to notice other objects of the same color, even if those aren't the objects they should be paying attention to.
"I think it is not inappropriate to say that this can also work with emotions," he said. "The more something we noticed matches our emotional state, perhaps the emotionally positive state of optimism and thinking about the future and so on, the more likely we are to notice it."
On a Tuesday in mid-April, visitors to the annual tulip festival at the West Side Community Garden in Manhattan pondered the relationship between emotional states and perceptual abilities while soaking in the flowers, nearly 100 varieties in total, planted in concentric beds around a small one Race.
"Everything is just even more beautiful after this terrible year," said Monica Barrett, real estate appraiser and environmental activist, pointing to a tulip stain that was streaked in psychedelic shades of scarlet, yellow, and orange. "When you look at these, they mesmerize you. It's almost like I'm high!"
Judy Disla, retiree and volunteer at the festival, said, "I've seen more all over town. I think we just appreciate these things a lot more now."
Last year the garden was closed as a precaution during the tulip season, but she still came by to look at the flowers through the gate. "We are all a little more attached to nature than we are," said Ms. Disla. "It made us so much more aware of the beauty of nature and the healing powers of nature."
Judy Robinson, president of the garden's board of directors, described how people told her and others they had waited all year for this: “That terrible year, the garden has really supported me, and you don't me don't know how much that means to me. "She added," People are so, so happy. "
On a weekday afternoon, dozens were circling the garden, gazing with delight at the jewel-colored flowers. At some point, attention shifted from flowers to phones when the news of Derek Chauvin's verdict broke.
"It's an ecstatic moment," an older man said to a friend as helicopters hovered over him. Soon the faces turned back to the flowers swaying gently in the wind.