Durwin Rice, the founder of the Tulips on Troost project, has more than 200 volunteers ready to plant tulip bulbs on a long stretch of Troost Avenue on October 15. This midtown beautification project, which began six years ago, traditionally plants between 25,000 and 75,000 tulip bulbs each autumn, up and down one of Kansas City's most historic streets. This year, however, the project planners discovered that they have more volunteers than tulip bulbs.
"Actually, we never have enough bulbs to do all the plantings we want," says Rice, noting that the beautification area has expanded well beyond its original Troost borders — between Beacon Hill on the north and 83rd Street on the south — to include the old Marlborough neighborhood on the southeast side. "Generally people make donations to the Tulips on Troost fund through the Southtown Foundation. But this year, we didn't have as many fundraisers, so we came up a little short."
But fans of the project have been coming through, Rice says, donating money and literally picking up bags of tulip bulbs at big-box stores like Costco and Home Depot.
Rice was actually living on Troost when he came up with the idea six years ago to start a renaissance for the street — before it became known as Kansas City's "racial dividing line," Troost Avenue had once been a street of millionaires in the 1900s and a popular middle-class neighborhood until the early 1970s. "We had enormous response to this idea from the first day," Rice says.
Rice and his volunteers learned an economic lesson the second year of the project: Hybridized tulip bulbs don't often bloom again after the first year. "After that, we focus on purchasing perennial varieties of tulips, many of which will bloom annually for 10 or more years." The Tulips on Troost volunteers have also been adding daffodil bulbs — a hardy perennial — and other flowering plants to their repertoire. "We like to add things that will be blooming after tulip season in the spring," Rice says.
Last year Rice made his first foray into city politics: He ran for the 3rd District At-Large seat, but didn't proceed past the primary. He says he won't run again: "It's very expensive. I'm still paying off the bills."
Rice had moved to a rambling 1905 mansion at 28th and Benton Boulevard last year. He's already gotten involved with the Benton beautification project created by Dr. Henry Johnson a few years ago: "Dr. Johnson said that Tulips on Troost was one of the inspirations for creating the Benton group," Rice says.
Donors who wish to donate tulip bulbs to Tulips on Troost may leave the bulbs at either the Southtown Council at 6814 Troost or at 2824 Benton Boulevard. The official planting date will be October 15, beginning with a rally at 9 a.m. at Troost and Meyer Boulevard.