Effi Barry, who traveled to Amsterdam last month as the guest of a private flower bulb exporter and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, was all set to present the fruits of her international travel -- 5,000 bulbs from Holland -- to the University of the District of Columbia yesterday.

The only problem is that although the mayor's wife made it back from Holland, the bulbs never arrived.

Representatives of Hill and Knowlton, the public relations firm handling the bulb promotion for their client, International Flower Bulb Centre, had to make a trip of their own, up Wisconsin Avenue to Johnson's Florist where a stand-in basket of bulbs was bought.

Barry presented the ceremonial bulbs to Rafael Cortada, new president of UDC, in a brief ceremony on the grounds of Carnegie Library at Ninth Street and New York Avenue NW. The bulbs are to be planted as part of a promotional contest sponsored by the bulb center and involving the capital cities of several other nations.

The goal is to promote the commercial exporter, raise sales and publicize International Flower Bulb Day. This year it was Sept. 20. The United States is second behind West Germany in the import of Dutch bulbs, according to Hill and Knowlton's public relations specialists who provided detailed information on the industry.

"You bring to this city a breath of sunshine and a hint of spring," Barry said as she handed the basket of bulbs to Cortada. "I hope we can make the city bloom in 1988," Cortada responded in closing the brief ceremony on the southwest corner of the library grounds.

"I'm not waiting for the bulbs; my first mission is to gas the flower beds to kill the weeds," said UDC horticulturist Grady A. McDonald, who will oversee the planting of the bulbs when they do arrive. In the next few weeks, about 20 agriculture and horticulture students at UDC will help design the flower beds and prepare the grounds.