Tulips – flower power from the Netherlands


Canadians love tulips. They buy them every year, and enjoy their vibrant colours during May in their gardens.

The Canadian love for tulips originates from the stay of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in Ottawa during the World War II for security reasons.

After she left Ottawa, she donated one million tulip bulbs to the city.

Ever since, Ottawa celebrates an annual Tulip Festival attracting thousands.

Tulip is a Eurasian and North African perennial, a showy, bulbous plant in the lily family. There are thousands of cultivated species, most of which were developed in Nederland.

75 wild species still exist in Pamir, Hindukush, and the Tien Shan mountains in Asia.

Persians were the first to cultivate tulips in teh 10th century. Successive Ottoman governments also cultivated tulips for imperial gardens in and around Topkapi (the official seat of the Sultan).

In 1574, Sultan Selim II ordered 50,000 tulip bulbs from Syria. Speculators believing in future lucrative financial gains bought shares in tulip trading and research companies but with the downturn of demand and subsequent collapse, lost millions.

The first records of tulip plants in Europe appeared in 1559 in Augsburg, Germany, although it is said that Oghier de Busbecq , the ambassador of Ferdinand I to the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, brought tulip bulbs first  to Europe.

Be that as it may, tulips have fascinated European garden and flower lovers for centuries.

Dutch horticulturists crossbred thousands of hybrids with a multitude of vibrant colours.

The first tulips in America were planted in 1847 in a private garden.

In the Nederland, tulip cultivation is now an industry exporting millions of dollars worth of bulbs every year to several countries.

At the legendary Keukenhof gardens (approximately 45 kilometres outside of Amsterdam), tulips of all varieties and colours flourish every May, jointly with fragrant hyacinths, and daffodils, plus more than 300 kinds of lilies.

Keukenhof, a bustling 32 hectare outdoor facility, attracts approximately 900 000 tourists every year during the two month festivities. It is a tulip oasis celebrating modern horticulture, Dutch entrepreneurship, tourism development, and a riot of colours.

Some years ago I spent an entire day shooting 40 – 50 colour slides in Keukenhof, a city that delights thousands of viewers.

The visitors come from all over Europe, and thousands from the Untied Kingdom and the U S A, spending untold amounts to delight their eyes, taking millions of pictures, and enriching local merchants, not to mention hotels and restaurants in Amsterdam.

If you do not want to take an organized trip, you can travel by bus or train, but the best way to enjoy Dutch countryside is to rent a bike in Amsterdam and ride to Keukenhof, and stay the night there.

You can also rent a bike in Keukenhof and explore the canals surrounding the gardens.

This will provide a perspective of how Dutch engineering knowledge and persistence solved many problems and shortcomings of geography in their homeland.

Although Keukenhof tulip gardens are the best known world wide, there are many cities all over the world that organize tulip festivals – Spalding (England), Skagit Valley (Washington State), Pella (Iowa), Ottawa (Canada).

Australia also organizes tulip festivals in November and December due to the reversal of seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres.