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Radnor Ave. 'Tulip House' Back for a Tropical Summer Encore

Jim Cuifolo of the Haddonfield Tulip Company and his son Benjamin give Patch a tour of their summer trial garden.

This spring, Patch featured a about “The Tulip House” on Radnor Avenue in Haddonfield where 5,000 tulips of incredible variety bloomed to the credit of Jim Cuifolo and his 3-year-old son, Benjamin. The pair started gardening together as a way for them both to integrate Ben’s autism diagnosis with their family life in 2010.

The story had so many fans from near and far that Patch decided to pay the boys from the Haddonfield Tulip Company a summer visit to see what was "up," so to speak. Does the Tulip House go on hiatus for the summer?

The tulips may be at rest, but the landscape is transformed again. Gone is the Dutch wonderland of tulips we saw in April. Round the corner from Maple Avenue onto Radnor and view tropical plants of prehistoric times and extinct beasts, “The Land of the Lost;” the days of Haddie the Hadrosaurus.

In catching up, Cuifolo said, “When the tulips were done this year, it was a big disruption for Ben. He would go to the window and make a question with his hand. He was mad the flowers were gone. He cried.”

Cuifolo said they enjoyed the response of people to the story. For many, Radnor Avenue was a stop on Easter Sunday, and the Tulip Company website, hit central. Three bridal parties held photographs on the lawn. He said the story even reached Holland.

“The entire tulip crew working on the fields over in Holland received a printed copy from the boss for a boost to morale. What a cool story—about a cool story,” said Cuifolo in an email this summer.

To see Benjamin this August, it is clear he has re-grouped and embraced a new growing season. He acts like a shareholder in the business, starting up a "safe" lawnmower and pushing it around the grass. He wears boots and gestures instructions to his dad. For a moment, it looked like he might drive the company truck.

Cuifolo said Ben is doing well in school where he started therapies this year. He is talkative and animated in the garden—and especially with the work-truck and tractor.

What have they been up to? Where do all the tropicals come from? How long will they last?

First, said Cuifolo, after the spring bloom all the exotic, fancy tulip bulbs are dug up and sent to a facility where they are processed as compost. A tulip purist, also known as Jimmy Tulip, Cuifolo admitted, “It’s not necessary to do that every year, but the bulbs do decline over time.” He doesn’t take any chances that he won’t get the same eye-popping effects next spring.

The yard today is less flowery and more edgy, flush with plants that take “hide and seek” to another stratosphere. From agave (main ingredient of tequila) and elephant ears to monkey puzzle trees and dinosaur kale, the yard boasts annuals that look like they’ve been around longer than say, humankind. Big tropical monsters line the borders of the yard with curvy shapes and spikes where dainty tulip teacups once beckoned.

“This is my trial garden. I am always trying something new to try to achieve something that is different than you see elsewhere,” he said. “In summer, I focus on foliage to bring in color that many annuals lose as the season passes.”

Many of his tropicals are locally grown, although natural to other parts of the world. Some are grown from seed on Radnor Avenue.

Business has grown this summer. Hopes are to continue to invest in the Haddonfield Tulip Company as a venture the family can depend on full time.

Elizabeth Redman, a customer on Walnut Street in Haddonfield, recently asked what Cuifolo would be doing if money weren’t a consideration.

Cuifolo said he had to laugh, “This very thing is what I’d be doing.”

Tulip season is still Haddonfield Tulip Company’s favorite, though. Fortunately, it is time to start planning for spring.

“Ben and I are going through the catalogs of all the new varieties available for spring,” he added, “People should call me for a consult in the next couple of weeks to get the best rates.”

To learn more about The Haddonfield Tulip Company and year-round services they offer, visit haddonfieldtulip.com.

Johnston March 02, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Amazing tropicals. The front yard of this home looks like a jungle of some tropical island. Amazing, nearly as amazing as the tulips.
Elise Sumnter March 10, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Jim Tulip conducted a wonderful presentation for the garden club this winter. I would love to hear about these plants from him too. Keep it up.

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