Photo Essay #10: Tulip season in Ottawa / by Eric DeLorme

Every May, no matter how long, short, cold or mild the preceding winter was, the tulips come out. Sometimes a week early, sometimes a week late, but they always come out.

The city of Ottawa is host to the annual Canadian Tulip Festival (starting today!) which is now in its 65th year. Over 1,000,000 bulbs are planted for the tulip festival, spread amongst several locales around the city, such as Major's Hill Park and Commissioner's Park (which is host to over 250,000 tulips on its own).

The tulip festival is the offshoot of a long-standing and very special relationship between Holland and Canada:

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 of the Netherlands, in the Second World War.

The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was declared to be officially a temporary part of Dutch territory and the Canadian Parliament voted to change governorship to be Dutch territory for one day and changed the flag over the Parliament building to the Dutch flag for that day, so that Princess Margriet would be born in Dutch territory and would inherit only her Dutch citizenship from her mother. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.

In the years following Queen Juliana's original donation, Ottawa became famous for its tulips and in 1953 the Ottawa Board of Trade and photographer Malak Karsh organized the first "Canadian Tulip Festival". Queen Juliana returned to celebrate the festival in 1967, and Princess Margriet returned in 2002 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival.

Source: Wikipedia

Here are some tulips from Major's Hill Park. As you can see, they're almost open... and there are plenty more waiting to bloom.