- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2001

To some, tulips are fun and fragrant. To the Dutch, they are serious business, said Dutch Ambassador Joris Vos, while hosting a tulip reception last Thursday evening at his Embassy Row residence.

"Tulips, and other fresh cut flowers, are very important to our economy," Mr. Vos said.

Every morning, 365 days a year, international buyers bid at a tulip auction outside of Amsterdam and later ship the precious commodity to all corners of the world.

"It´s remarkable. They´re at the auction in the morning, and in the afternoon they´re sold in Manhattan," Mr. Vos said.

Mr. Vos´ residence, a neoclassical Revival-style building, with an enormous staircase leading up to the second floor, was decorated appropriately with 12,000 tulips, some red and yellow, others violet and white, some with jagged edges and others with smooth, round petals.

Even the hors d´oeuvres trays each had a unique tulip arrangement, sometimes consisting of a bed of petals on which the food rested.

Admiring the tulips, chatting with former U.S. chief of protocol Selwa "Lucky" Roosevelt and giving Mr. Joris a one-two kiss on the cheek before her early departure, was Justice Sandra Day O´Connor.

Among fellow diplomats was Irish Ambassador Sean O´Huiginn, who called the Netherlands a country that all Europeans like and the tulip a flower full of mystique. As for the Irish counterpart to the tulip, Mr. O´Huiginn said, "I guess that would be the shamrock, but it´s so plain "

Plain describes the way the Dutch like their tulips.

"We buy bunches of them, maybe 20, 30 or 40 tulips, and we just put them in a bucket with a little water," Dutch social secretary Janet Leopold said. If you want them to last longer, keep them in a cool place and give them small amounts of water.

Others seen enjoying not only the tulips and good company but also the many Dutch paintings the residence is virtually a museum with art by 17th-century to present-day painters were perennial arts patrons Bitsey Folger and Philip Pillsbury, and lawyer Lloyd Cutler.

The tulips were shipped from Holland on Monday and reached their peak slightly opened just in time for the reception. Luckily the embassy didn't have to purchase them at $10,000 a bulb, which was the case during the "tulip mania" of the 18th century, when that investment fad reached its peak and people were going broke for a bulb.

On the patio, where violet tulips contrasted the white tables, were Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson and his wife, Kerstin, who agreed they need more tulips in their garden at the Swedish Embassy residence.

"We have a lot of daffodils, but not enough tulips," Mrs. Eliasson said. "They are some of the most wonderful flowers you can imagine."

As a parting gift, each of the 200 guests left with a bunch of tulips, the red-yellow, smooth-petal kind.

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