After two short weeks on the shelf, the ‘Canada 150 Tulip’ sold out in most Canadian stores in early September.
The special tulip was designed as a tribute from the Netherlands to Canada in advance of next year’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.
“The ‘Canada 150 Tulip’ has really captured the emotions of Canadians. They want to be part of the celebration,” said Daniel Feeny, project director with the National Capital Commission.
The NCC will plant 300,000 ‘Canada 150 Tulip’ bulbs in Commissioners Park this fall, near Dows Lake, in anticipation of next year’s Tulip Festival.
Two years ago, the NCC began working with a Dutch horticulture company to try to genetically design a tulip that could live healthily in Canada and have a unique Canadian charm.
Feeny explained the result didn’t have the “wow factor” that they were looking for. They decided instead to license an already modified tulip.
Meanwhile, Canadians are planting it in their own gardens. The bulbs, exclusively on sale at Home Hardware stores, are in high demand; over three million of the tulips have been sold so far. A box of 25 of the tulip bulbs retails for $12.97.
“We have another shipment that is expected to arrive in stores towards the end of September,” says Trisha Owens, a Home Hardware coordinator, from the company’s head office in St. Jacobs, Ont.
Gardeners are keen to get their hands on the bulbs soon because they need to be planted before the first frost.
After the winter, when the snow is finally starting to melt, little green stems will start to shoot out of the ground, and soon after the ‘Canada 150 Tulip’ will blossom.
The tulip’s popularity has a lot to do with its distinctive red and white colouring, but also with the special connection between Canada and the Netherlands.
“It’s a tulip that has exactly the characteristics that we’re looking for,” says Feeny, describing how the bulbs can survive the harsh Canadian winter. The NCC made sure to test the bulbs in all different climate regions of the country.
The ‘150 Tulip’ resembles the Canadian flag. The petals are white with reddish “flames” that look like the pointed tips of maple leaves.
The story of the tulip dates back to the Second World War, when the Dutch royal family took refuge in Ottawa. “In those dark years, our Queen felt very, very safe here,” says Lt.-Col. Christa Oppers-Beumer, defence attaché at the Dutch embassy in Ottawa.
She explained that the Netherlands has been sending tulips to the capital ever since 1945, as a gesture of friendship.
The Dutch have done it before. Twenty years ago, the people of the Netherlands gave Canada a tulip called the Liberators to honour Canadian veterans who took part in the liberation of The Netherlands after D-Day.
The ‘150 Tulip’ represents another horticultural gift that honours the strong bond between the two countries.
“We are grateful for what Canada did for us. These new tulips are another small token of our appreciation,” said Beumers.
The bulbs themselves, which were developed in the Netherlands and shipped across the Atlantic, will remain in Canada for years to come. Once the ‘150 Tulips’ have bloomed in the capital late next spring, the NCC removes the bulbs from the flower beds and dries them. They donate the bulbs to different communities who will then replant them in the fall.
That way, the ‘150 Canada tulips’ legacy will live on in Canada indefinitely.