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Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

Finally! On Easter the last of our snow melted. We have flowers for the first time since winter arrived. This post is for my mother, who picked violets for her mother, once upon a time.

Happy Spring!

 

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photo by Chris Willis

photo by Chris Willis

It’s Tulip Festival time here in Ottawa, and despite the unseasonably cold weather we’re having right now the flowers are beautiful. They also got me asking questions about the Festival specifically and about tulips in general. (If you are Canadian and a gardener feel free to stop here, you probably already know what I’m about to say. I’m neither and was happy to learn something new.)

Why tulips? Sure, the Festival is designed to promote trade and tourism, but there’s a nice story behind its origin. The tulips were “given as a gift in perpetuity to the Canadian people for having provided safe harbour to the Dutch Royal Family during the German occupation of the Netherlands”* during World War Two.

Princess Juliana was about to give birth in Ottawa but being born in another country would have affected the child’s succession status. Fair enough, but it’s not like the Princess could go home. So, in typically awesome Canadian style, when Princess Margriet was born in 1943 the Dutch flag was flown from the Peace Tower. Succession issue solved. How neighborly is that?

Wait, you may ask, isn’t this the same flower whose bulbs were once worth more than their weight in gold (and, not incidentally, also sparked the “Tulip Mania” market crash in the 17th century)? How do I get more of them? You may already know this but I didn’t, at least not in detail.

How do tulips propagate? As in, I’ve got this shallot-like bulb I picked up at the store and the package swears that if I put it in the ground I’ll get a tulip next Spring. Great. But what if I didn’t have this little net bag from the supermarket? If the Apocalypse comes tomorrow tulips are on their own. What then?

It turns out that tulips are well positioned to survive a catastrophic event because they are designed to propagate in not one but two ways. If you want to make more tulips, come Autumn you can either dig up the bulb or collect the seeds. The original bulb will have grown a number of little satellites, or offsets. The largest of the bulbs will flower the next year but the smaller ones will need extra growing time. Bulbs are exact genetic replicas of the original, while seeds will give you a hybrid plant with more genetic diversity, and the potential for new colors and characteristics.

This could be critical if the Apocalypse does come and you need new, pretty ways to match your landscaping with brimstone or mask the odor of zombie. Just saying.

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