For Anthony Hennessy Sr., this time of year — when the tulips start to bloom in the Public Garden — is like the moment in “The Wizard of Oz” when the scenery suddenly goes from a dull black and white to bursting with color.
“That’s the feeling I get from it,” said Hennessy, superintendent of horticulture for Boston’s Parks and Recreation department. “Life is renewed, and everything is coming alive again.”
Hennessy and his crew spend a month in late fall planting tulip bulbs in dozens of flower beds in the Public Garden and other spots throughout the city, meticulous work that’s preceded by a calculated planning process that includes selecting the best assortment of flowers to grow come spring.
The payoff to that hard work comes now.
For the next two to three weeks, the annual tulip display that turns the Public Garden into a veritable landscape painting — drawing thousands of people to the park to take pictures to post and share on social media — will be at its pinnacle. If you’re looking for a way to add a pop of color to your daily work-from-home walk routine, time is of the essence.
“Public Garden tulip update: Color should be at peak for the next couple of weeks,” Hennessy tweeted from his account, @JadedGardener, this week. “Get outside and enjoy spring!”
Hennessy, who has worked in the parks department for 22 years, said city workers planted “a little bit north” of 27,000 bulbs in the Public Garden in November, a number that includes a variety of tulips — Triumph tulips, Peony tulips, Fringed tulips, and Darwin Hybrid tulips — as well as alliums, tall green stalks topped by purplish orb-like flowers.
Additional tulip bulbs were planted in flower beds in the North End’s Waterfront Park, Copley Square, Wellesley Park in Dorchester, and other spaces, he said.
“It’s a harbinger of spring,” said Hennessy of the blooms. “It’s something you plant almost in the dead of winter in the hope that it’s going to turn into something beautiful.”
Tulips have bloomed in the park since the 1840s, according to the Friends of the Public Garden, an advocacy group that partners with the city to care for the park space. They’ve been a treasured attraction ever since.
“Of all the flowers in the Garden today, it is the tulips that have the oldest and closest tie with its history,” the group wrote in “The Public Garden Boston,” published in 2000.
They were so popular, newspapers at the time would lament the end of the tulip season, when Doogue’s “brilliant” arrangements began to wane.
“Mr. Doogue’s Public Garden tulip show is about to close its season,” read a blurb in the Boston Post in May 1902. “More’s the pity.”
Hennessy called Doogue “a personal hero,” because he would “go out of his way to find new and exotic plants that really stood out, and got people talking about horticulture.”
While not everyone was a fan of Doogue’s work, the former horticulturist dismissed the critics in his quest to bring exciting features to the park, Hennessy said.
Today, Hennessy tries to align his vision for the city’s garden spaces — including the tulip display — with Doogue’s approach, following the adage, “As long as you’re happy with what you’re doing with your job, that’s all that matters.”
That mindset shines through in Hennessy’s cheeky Twitter bio, too: “If you don’t like my designs that’s OK ... you’re just wrong,” it reads.
But it would be tough for anyone to argue that Hennessy’s annual tulip displays and layouts, which he’s been tending to for more than two decades, are anything but delightful. If you need convincing, just take a spin through Instagram or Twitter this time of year.
There, you’ll find image after image of people and their pets crouching in front of the flower beds, posing among a smattering of pink, red, orange, or yellow tulips. They will get down, close to the ground, angling their cameras to fit the George Washington statue or Millennium Tower into the backdrop of the sea of flowers.
“So lucky to have this oasis as my backyard,” one person wrote on Instagram this week, in a post that showed pink and yellow tulips.
Hennessy said he enjoys seeing people out on the grounds this time of year, experiencing the floral arrangements and capturing digital keepsakes at a time when small bursts of happiness are needed most.
He just has one request: Don’t pluck the flowers from their beds and take away a piece of shared joy.
“I’d go back to a quote from William Doogue,” he said, paraphrasing heavily. “The word ‘public’ is the most important thing. The garden is for everybody. And as long as people that come there and use the park treat it that way, it’s a great thing.”