Brian Minter: Commemorative tulips

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Commemorative Tulips

Original Source: The Vancouver Sun

This tulip was to be a recognition of the liberation of the Netherlands, an expression of deep appreciation and a means to create awareness among the younger generations of the role Canadians played.

It was the spring of 1945 and the Second World War was still being fiercely fought, but the tide was turning in favour of the Allies, and Canadian troops were being sent to liberate the Netherlands. It was no easy task — more than 7,000 young Canadian servicemen lost their lives during the closing stages of the terrible conflict.

The Dutch people have never forgotten the sacrifices our soldiers made 75 years ago this coming spring. On Veterans’ Day, every May 5, they remember.

Recently, I was speaking with Carl Van Noort, one of the owners of the Van Noort Bulb Co., a major bulb supplier based in Langley and in Ontario, that provides our country with so many great Dutch bulbs. From him, I learned about the ‘Canadian Liberator’ tulip that will be available across Canada this fall.

According to Van Noort, the Dutch Canadian community, especially here in B.C., felt very strongly that something should be done to commemorate the 75th anniversary of this heroic endeavour. So, the Dutch Canadian 2020 Liberation Society began organizing. They wanted something floral at their May 5, 2020 remembrance, and a tulip that would be in bloom on this date seemed to be the most suitable flower.

As a symbol, this tulip was to be a recognition of liberation, an expression of deep appreciation and a means to create awareness among the younger generations of the role Canadians played. The goal of planting one million tulips in schools, parks and home gardens was set. The Dutch Canadian 2020 Liberation Society decided that this should be a not-for-profit campaign here in B.C. with the net proceeds going to the Royal Canadian Legion, B.C. and Yukon Command.

A red ‘Triumph’ tulip, one that was developed in the mid-1990s and named the ‘Canadian Liberator’, was deemed the most appropriate choice. However, only one grower, Cornel van Schagen, was growing them, and he was producing about 300,000 per year. To meet the quantity required, another ‘triumph’ tulip that was similar in colour and bloomed at the same time needed to be found. ‘Strong Love’ was selected, and there were enough bulbs available to meet the million-tulip goal.

To engage the schools across Canada, an existing program, called ‘Agriculture in the Classroom’, has partnered to facilitate this campaign. In fall and particularly in spring, folks currently involved in this program educate children on how to grow daffodils. Over 1,400 schools will be participating in this campaign by treating it as an awareness and science project.

Van Noort is also hoping that many communities across our country will support this program by planting these special tulips in city gardens, parks and landscaped areas. They are also looking for sponsors to support the program for the bulbs going into schools, cities and community gardens. If interested, you can go to their website The ‘Canadian Liberator’ tulips are now available in many garden stores across the country or through this same website.

75 year liberation of The Netherlands
‘Canadian Liberator’ packaging.

There are three well-kept, manicured in fact, Canadian war cemeteries in the Netherlands. Currently, with a campaign called ‘Faces to Graves’, the Dutch are trying to create a digital database of all the graves and are planning to put a photo and story of the soldier on each grave. If you can help in this regard, please use the above website to connect with the coordinators.

There is also a similar tulip event initiated by the Canadian Tulip Festival that is supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Royal Canadian Legion, the National Capital Commission and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Their goal is for Canadians to plant 1.1 million ‘Liberation 75’ tulips to honour the 1.1 million Canadians who served during the Second World War. They have chosen a mid-season tulip called ‘Orange Emperor’ which is being branded as ‘Liberation 75’ for their campaign.

As a thank-you for Canadian’s efforts in World War Two, the Dutch Royal Family has been giving Canada 100,000 tulip bulbs each year since the war to be planted in the Ottawa region, but this year they will be donating ‘Liberation 75’ bulbs to 1,100 schools across the country, as well as 750 bulbs to provincial capitals. The National Capital Commission, the official gardener of the Capital, has also agreed to match this donation by planting 100,000 ‘Liberation 75’ tulips around our Capital.

‘Liberation 75’ tulips are also available to Canadians through the website The cost is $15 for 15 tulips. One dollar for each bag sold will go to the Royal Canadian Legion and other proceeds will go to the Canadian Tulip Festival’s annual legacy celebration. KLM is offering a chance to win a trip for two to the Netherlands and $2,000 to everyone purchasing a bag of these tulips. On this website, there are also opportunities to sponsor and participate in social media.

As Canadians, we should be very proud of our country’s contributions during the Second World War and the sacrifices made by members of our Armed Forces. We should also feel honoured by the ongoing gratitude of the Dutch people and their generosity to us all. I invite you to support these campaigns paying tribute to our Canadian Forces by helping to achieve these goals.

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