WSU’s springtime gardens are rooted in tulips


Easton Thompson

Kari Ossman, Tiffany Jehle, and Lowell Kaughman are WSU’s floral department crew. Here they stand behind a tulip bed outside Ahlberg Hall.

There are more tulips than students at Wichita State this spring — more than 19,000 tulips, to be exact.

Kari Ossman, Lowell Kaufman, and Tiffany Jehle make up Facility Services’ floral department and are WSU’s main tulip tenders. Between October and Thanksgiving, they and about 15 other Facility Services workers hit the tulip beds and get to work planting bulbs.

The tulips have been a WSU tradition since the 1970s, Ossman said.

The crew works in the mornings. Some workers dig holes. Others put the bulbs in the holes. Everyone works for four hours each morning for a week straight filling the beds.

The crew uses string tape measurers, and plants the tulips six-by-six — “real uniform,” Ossman said. Ossman has tended WSU’s gardens for 26 years.

Then the bulbs are watered, if it’s not a wet season. Finally, usually around early April, the tulips bloom into beautiful shades of red and yellow.

The tulips bloom from April to early May. Then they go to new homes: the gardeners dig the tulips up and give them away before they’re out of season. There are never any leftover tulips.

The tulips are free, but Ossman encourages people to participate in a food drive that accompanies the tulip giveaway. Donations go to the Shocker Support Locker.

“I can’t remember how many pounds [of food] we had last year,” Ossman said. “At least a hundred, maybe almost two.”

Ossman said she looks forward to the spring season callers asking when she’ll start digging the tulips up.

“It’s like a little piece of WSU going to their house,” Ossman said. “We like to share.”

Check out the WSU floral department’s Instagram, @ictbloomsandbees.