If it's true, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, that earth laughs in flowers, Washington state's Skagit Valley is a side-splitter.
Skagit Valley isn't the only place in Washington with stunning shows of flowers, but it should keep you grinning from ear to ear.
Its just-right climate is home to bulb growers whose roots are in Holland, which has fed our fascination with bulbs that brighten the landscape after a long, dull winter. In the spring — and sometimes, like this year even before the vernal equinox — Skagit Valley erupts with colors from tulips, daffodils and more.
Mother Nature runs on her own, secret calendar, and after a mild winter this year, the daffodils are already blooming and the tulips are threatening to debut before Easter, which is March 27, hitting peak bloom perhaps as early as April 4.
That won't change the dates of a couple of important festivals. La Conner, Wash., has its daffodil festival Feb. 27-April 2, in celebration of the carpets of gold that blanket the area. That's followed by the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which is April 1-30, in Mount Vernon, about 10 miles northeast of La Conner.
To see what's blooming when, go to the bloom map.
A couple of show gardens are worth checking out as well. Tulip Town in Mount Vernon (www.tuliptown.com), opening March 19, is 15 acres of fields you can walk (or take a trolley) that comes alive with about 2 million bulbs. It has an indoor flower and garden show as well in case the weather throws a tantrum.
There's also RoozenGaarde, also in Mount Vernon, three acres of more than a quarter-million bulbs. It's an outgrowth of the Washington Bulb Co., which has more than 1,000 acres of tulip fields harvested for cut flowers and bulbs.