Marie Roggenkamp / Daily Journal: Elroy Maack, along with his dog, Hillary, show off the 8,000 tulips that his and his wife MaryLou have planted in their Elizabeth yard. His garden features different colors and varieties of tulips including Triumph Tulips, Darwin Hybrid and Fringed Tulips.

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Maack has tulips for all

Published 10:50am Friday, May 20, 2011 Updated 10:50am Friday, May 20, 2011

From the first 50 bulbs planted in 1950, Elroy Maack’s tulip garden has flourished to somewhere around 8,000 of the spring flowers.

Over the years, he has planted approximately 500 bulbs and the garden has become an attraction for tulip lovers.

“People come to pick bouquets,” the Elizabeth resident said. “I have a sign that says ‘Pick all you want.’”

Many have taken him up on his word. Earlier this week, a family picked about 500 tulips and it barely left a hole in the tulip garden, Maack said.

A couple of years ago the daughter of Joyce Ricks, a family friend, asked to pick enough flowers to decorate her wedding and reception.

“(Elroy) pointed to the ones that had opened up that morning so we had the freshest flowers,” Ricks said. “My daughter was tickled pink to have her favorite flower at her wedding.”

This year hasn’t been a good year for the flower, though, Maack said, because the weather hasn’t been cooperating. The early coolness and sudden spike in temperatures isn’t a good mix.

Usually, he said, the garden peaks around Mother’s Day.

“That didn’t happen,” Maack said. “This year, you couldn’t even tell what their color would be (before they opened).”

In a good year, the garden generally blooms for several weeks because Maack has planted both mid- and late season tulip varieties, he said.

One bulb can produce up to 20 plants over six to seven years, he said, which means he is thinning the garden nearly every year.

A conversation with Maack reveals a fountain of knowledge about tulips, their origin and how they found their way to Minnesota. He knows the advantages of the various variety of bulbs and what weather conditions will produce the best growing season.

But he is also quick to point out the information was learned at the knee of his grandfather and through lots of reading.

“I’ve just picked it up over the years,” he said.

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