The 70th Canadian Tulip Festival, 2022

Colourful flowers at the Canadian Tulip Festival 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario

A rainbow-coloured fête of all things tulip, the annual Canadian Tulip Festival in May celebrated its 70th birthday this year. It’s the largest festival of its kind in North America! And I saw it on opening weekend, when things looked their freshest – despite a rogue heatwave during our visit that showed how ephemeral these spring flowers can be. It really pays to go early.

Canadian Tulip Festival 2022

The main show for the event is Commissioners Park beside Dow Lake. But, for ten days, Ottawa is Tulipville with displays sprinkled at key sites through the capital, such as Major’s Hill facing the Parliament Buildings, above. I took far too many pictures to include here, but these few should give you a taste. For more, after you’ve read the post hop over to my Flickr account and see the album.

Canadian Tulip Festival 2022

The idea for the festival idea blossomed with an “historic Royal gift of tulips from the Dutch to Canadians immediately following the Second World War as a symbol of international friendship,” says the website.

Collage of my favourite feature tulip bed – I have an approximate zillion more shots of this one.

Canada played a large role in the liberation of Holland in WW2. And, during the German occupation of her country, Princess (and, later, Queen) Juliana of the Netherlands sheltered here with her children. In fact, her daughter Princess Margriet was born in Ottawa in 1943, where the hospital was briefly declared ex territorial so the royal baby would not be born a British subject.

Princess Margriet at the opening ceremonies.

It was Canadian photographer Malak Karsh who suggested turning it into an annual festival in 1953, and we’ve been tip-toeing through the Ottawa tulips ever since.

Am I standing in the middle of the flowers? Nope. Actually, in a paved photo bay. See the loops? Was I that person telling other people how to do this? Yes, all over the place. You’re welcome.

Canadian Tulip Festival 2022

Through no preconceived strategy of mine, I’ll be visiting two more Canadian garden festivals next month – Mosaiculture in Québec City and the International Garden Festival at Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens. However it came to pass, it’s a fun thing to happen during Canada’s official Year of the Garden.

9 comments

  1. Oh thank you for that delicious taste of tulip ‘mania’ in Ottawa! Nice to see that they are mixing up the planting beds.

    1. Thanks, Jessica. Weather didn’t favour the festival this year, what with the heat and later the derecho! We were glad to see it early in the event.

  2. I too love tulips and all they symbolize…I have a few in my largely native plant garden. But what Canadian wildlife do they support? Really looking forward to ALSO having serviceberry, wild strawberry, wild blueberry, yellow birch, and native orchid protection festivals! These plants are what “grow” the insects that support much of our ecology. The earth will be a more sustainable place if we attend to things that make our country unique! Maybe Canadian flowers that symbolize Canadian servicemen who died in WWI? Bunchberry? Canada mayflower? Lots of choices that use native ground without a lot of soil disruption and fertilizers etc. The greatest expression of nationalism in my mind is to protect our amazing ecology! If everyone did that around the world they would be too busy for war and protecting against the loss of biodiversity. Our plants support us in every possible way, from atmosphere, to soil, to food, and even to gas in our cars, lol. Just a thought.

    1. As a gardener who is making a concerted effort to plant more native plants, I appreciate your perspective. And a native plant to represent Canadian servicemen is a great idea that is already happening. Do you know about the Maple Leaves Forever organization? Their goal is to sustainably propagate and encourage the nursery stocking and planting of native Canadian maple tree species. They are also one of the founding members of the Highway of Heroes, which does exactly what you have proposed along Canada’s highways.

  3. Hi Helen love all the tulip photos ! and that little bit of history .. We lived in the Netherlands for 4 years, so we, as retired military, are familiar with it but I wonder how many students really know about those types of details ?
    I think your picture in the midst of all the tulips is GREAT ! LOL
    I haven’t seen a true Mayflower plant since I was a little girl .. I tried to grow the Bunchberry plants but they left “home” some how .. however I have a lot of trillium and some arisaema .. my back garden is an attempt at a woodland refuge (more for me?)but obviously for the wildlife too ! LOL

    1. I’ve had no success with bunchberry either, but I put in a new bed last year that is almost exclusively native plants. I’ll be writing about it soon, but am waiting for a good picture of the poke milkweed in bloom – it’s a milkweed that grows in shade. It’s always great to get your comments, Joy. Hope you have a “joy-full” summer!

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