Canadian Tulip Festival and the Ottawa Home and Garden Show
Designed by A Cultivated Art Inc. in association with Permacon, Landscape Ontario
There are millions of colourful reasons why one should visit the Netherlands in the spring - 7 million flower bulbs and 4.5 million
tulips in 100 varieties traced to one special place - Keukenhof - the most stunning spring garden in the world, with 15 km of footpaths, more than 2,500 trees in 87 varieties, and a Walk of Fame with tulips named after famous people such as Van Gogh. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths occupy 32 hectares (79 acres) here with vivid tints and beguiling fragrance.
Lisse, South Holland, south of Haarlem and southwest of Amsterdam, Keukenhof or 'Kitchen garden' is one of the world's largest flower gardens, accessible by bus from the train stations of Haarlem, Leiden and Schiphol, the airport.
Open annually from mid-March to mid-May, the best time to view the tulips is around mid-April, depending on the weather. We arrived later, but millions of flowers were in full bloom and adjacent fields fluttered with patches of colour.
Besides gigantic outdoor beds, we wandered through pavilions such as the Beatrix which housed gorgeous orchids. Amsterdam's floating gardens along a central canal were quite lovely, but Keukenhof is special, as I learned during an
AmaWaterways river cruise.
The garden was established in 1949 by the mayor of Lisse to present a flower exhibit where growers from the Netherlands and Europe might show off their hybrids - and help the Dutch export industry. The Netherlands is the world's largest exporter of flowers, and locally, we see the effect of Dutch planters throughout Niagara.
At Keukenhof's busy entrance, we are greeted simultaneously by women in traditional Dutch attire, the sugary scent of freshly made waffles, a functioning windmill and spirited music from a painted street organ named 'Adriaen,' that has played here for 20 years.
Then, we wade through seas of flowers - extraordinary masses of tulips, chrysanthemums, daffodils, hydrangeas, and
orchids. We drown in oceans of colour while absorbing pavilion exhibits, sculptures scattered throughout the grounds and exotic offerings such as Beech Tree Lane at the north east end of the extensive garden.
Ogier de Busbecq, the ambassador of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, sent the first tulip bulbs and seeds from Turkey to Vienna in 1554. From Vienna, they migrated to Augsburg, Antwerp and Amsterdam, and within a hundred years, The Netherlands experienced 'tulip mania,' some single bulbs selling for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. This 1637 manic period was popularized in 1841 by the book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written by British journalist
A new merchant class had set up grand estates surrounded by flower gardens, and the tulip was their star attraction. As a result, tulips rapidly became a coveted luxury item, and a profusion of varieties followed.
By 1636, the tulip bulb became the fourth leading export of the Netherlands, after gin, herring and cheese. The price skyrocketed because of speculation in tulip futures, and investors made and lost fortunes overnight.
Our own Canadian Tulip Festival takes place in Ottawa from May 12-23, Ottawa's flower symbolizing the strong bonds of friendship between Canada and the Netherlands, forged in our role in the liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War.
In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation in WWII.
A noteworthy event during their time here was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana
at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was declared a temporary part of international territory such that the baby was born in no specific country and inherited her Dutch citizenship from her mother. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs, requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and she promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.
Ottawa's Canadian Tulip Festival claims to be the world's largest tulip festival, displaying over one million tulips, with attendance surpassing 500,000 visitors annually. Stunning displays of tulips are planted throughout Ottawa, the largest display found in
Commissioners Park on the shores of Dow's Lake and along the Rideau Canal with 300,000 tulips planted there alone. The festival also includes music performances, speakers and exhibits of international cuisine.
Besides writing for the five Niagara Postmedia newspapers, Mike has been published in every major newspaper across Canada including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun. He has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City, Seniors Review and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. With hundreds of reviews, photos and helpful votes, he has earned Trip Advisor's "Top Contributor Badge" and is considered an "Expert" in both Hotels and Restaurant reviews. Mike posts photos to Pinterest where he has a following of four thousand viewers.