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'Tulip House' Is More Than Meets the Eye

Jim Cuifolo owns the Haddonfield Tulip Company. In search of a way to recharge while raising a special needs child, 'Jimmy Tulip' found an outlet and a vocation at his Radnor Avenue home.

Radnor Avenue in Haddonfield is a busy street, a road that leads to sports fields. Some sporting event involving high school kids in full athletic regalia and lots of parked cars takes place there every season.

Yet, it is a quaint street and for the last several years, an attraction of a more "cultured" variety has brought a different kind of traffic to Radnor Avenue. 

The attraction is a front yard laden with 5,000 blooming tulips of indescribable variety, color and presence, in a large pattern that some say looks like a butterfly. An adorable 3-year-old boy pushes a bubble-blowing lawn mower and bops tulip heads gently with his toddler hand.

Jim, Lisa, and Benjamin Cuifolo, their dog Pudgy and cats Lucy and Scratchy live in "the house with all the tulips." They’ve lived on Radnor Avenue for the last five years or so. Recently, a sign “sprouted” up on the front lamp post. It says, “The Haddonfield Tulip Co., www.haddonfieldtulip.com.”

Aside from being breathtaking, the Cuifolo’s yard is about a lot more. It is a testament to family, community and the therapy of working outdoors.

Jim Cuifolo said he picked up gardening at an early age, growing up on Graisbury Avenue in Haddon Township around a community of gardeners who included him in projects. His gardening took on new depth in recent years.

When Benjamin was born, Jim left his job in corporate offices with UPS to stay home with the new addition to the family. Lisa continued her work as an attorney.

“I wasn’t satisfied at work, so I stayed home, but I thought I would eventually go back to a job,” Cuifolo said.

“Long-story-short, after Lisa and I found out that my 3 year-old son, Benjamin, is autistic I suppose my gardening went into overdrive.  It's a combination of therapy and work for me,” he explained.

Benjamin was around 2 years old when he was diagnosed with autism and started private therapy. He now attends Tatem School in Haddonfield where Cuifolo says he has responded well and improved a lot.

“Benjamin is social. He always liked to be handled, comforted,” said Cuifolo. “He has a ‘sensory diet’ of things he needs to be balanced. I get a read on him and we do things he needs,” explained Cuifolo. “Gardening is sensory work where your mind and body are engaged.”

Cuifolo recounted a time when Ben planted a tennis ball after watching his daddyplanting the tulip bulbs. “He likes to do what daddy does.”

And does he ever. Ben himself has two "lawnmowers." One blows bubbles and the other has popping balls in a clear globe on top. He hauled out two daddy-sized lawnmowers, nearly on his own, from the garage, to show how the pair work outside together.

Ben carries fertilizer bags of sand and pushes a seed cart. His movements are confident. He really does know his way around the garden and the backyard greenhouse, too.

Neighbor Holly Stephens stopped her car to nod support to the effort Cuifolo is making to grow the new Haddonfield Tulip Co. business.

“Holly was the first person who asked me to do work for her,” said Cuifolo. “The neighbors have been very encouraging. Basically, the neighbors forced me into it,” he smiled.

“My wife was hugely supportive as well. She saw the need for me to have an outlet in dealing with the stress that comes with raising a child with special needs and she went out and bought me a work truck!” he recalled.

“Lisa encouraged me to start The Haddonfield Tulip Co. after so many neighbors and friends came to me for help with their gardens. It's really been a community effort so far, everyone has been very encouraging and supportive.”

One such neighbor, Joe Murphy, leader of the Friends of the Indian King Tavern in downtown Haddonfield, has hired Cuifolo to install tulips at his home on Chestnut Street and behind his office on Tanner Street.

Cuifolo volunteers his time to care for the grounds at the Indian King Tavern. He recently planted 1,500 tulips there.

As far as what’s next, Cuifolo said that installations have to be done in the fall and involve raised beds with grids of tulip bulbs from a family supplier that deals in high quality tulips from Holland. He said that many exotic tulips come from cool regions like Turkey and Asia. This year’s weather has been good for a longer lasting bloom because it has been cooler.

People interested in more information about residential or small business installations can contact “Jimmy Tulip” through the company website,haddonfieldtulip.com. Bulbs' cost starts at $1 each installed with a 100-bulb minimum. Some additional costs for beds and compost, all natural and/or organic, may be involved.

“We can install daffodils, too,” said Cuifolo, “in the same manner, especially where deer are a problem because they won’t eat them.”

Ami Vielehr April 22, 2011 at 02:15 PM
On Wednesday my best buddy called me and said..."you busy? I wanna show you something, drop what your doing I will be there to pick you up in five". My 8 year old daughter and 10 year old niece begged to come on this mystery adventure. When she turned down the street I was first struck by the brilliant orange glow coming from my sisters old house of all places.....Many a days had I spent in that yard as she lived there for over 15 years. When we got out and inspected all the beautiful colors and shapes and designs the girls were awestruck and excited going from flower to flower..."look this one is tie dyed" "Here is a white one in thousands of orange". They were so captivated by the sheer beauty of nature. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of work that went into it...for such a short time...for others to enjoy...It made my whole week....so thank you ...Haddonfield Tulip Company for sharing beauty and delight....
Edward Van Embden (Editor) April 26, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Oh man, what a cool story. I love tulips! I'm glad I didn't miss this piece!
Linda Conner April 28, 2011 at 03:28 PM
What a fabuous, worthy, well-written article! Thank you.

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