Canadian Tulip Festival auctions off the giant tulips
Greenhouse owners Sylvia Vogt-Nesbitt and Ron Nesbitt won a giant tulip at auction and plan to display their piece of history at their shop. Alymer, QC. Dec. 9, 2020. (Tyler Fleming/CTV News Ottawa)
OTTAWA -- The Canadian Tulip Festival auctioned off many of the giant plaster tulips that pop up across Ottawa during the May bloom.
The lucky winners are not only adopting a piece of history, they are preserving a 15-year tradition from crumbling away.
There were 60 giant plaster tulips up for grabs in an online auction by the Canadian Tulip Festival; many uniquely painted by local artists, some blank.
Each spring, the giant tulips pop-up outside hotels and businesses, with a pair also planted at the Ottawa International Airport. The plaster tulips are part of the celebration that blooms across the capital when hundreds of thousands of tulips emerge from the ground to display their vibrant colours.
Canadian Tulip Festival executive direct Jo Riding says maintaining the four-foot plants was expensive and time consuming, something they could no longer do.
"We are moving into a new decade and we're looking at new alternatives to our giant tulips," says Riding. "What we really want is for people to literally adopt the tulip and care for it in a way that our tiny crew can't in this time."
Some of the giant tulips are 15 years old and beginning to breakdown. The hope is that by auctioning the historical pieces, buyers will refurbish them and proudly display their tulips outside their home or workplace.
Owners Sylvia Vogt-Nesbitt and Ron Nesbitt of Nesbitt's Greenhouse and Nursery, in Alymer QC., were excited to take delivery of their winning bid, the 'Peace and Friendship Tulip' that was painted for Canada's 150 birthday celebrations. Their plan is to have a local artist repair and colour-match the original artwork, then set it up in their new greenhouse for customers to enjoy.
Vogt-Nesbitt says it was exciting to be the winning bidder and that she and her husband Ron, have been attending the tulip festival for as long as they can remember.
"We always buy our tulip bulbs from the Netherlands," she says, looking at the painting of Parliament Hill's Peace Tower on one side. "The history between Canada and the Netherlands is very exciting and I love the story and the historical value of it."
Thousands of tulip bulbs which blossoms throughout the capital each spring are a gift from the Dutch Royal Family for having sheltered their future queen during the Second World War.
The proceeds from the auction will help fund the Canadian Tulip Legacy, which is the registered charity that ensures the 69-year-old festival continues.
If you were lucky enough to be a winner, hang in to your tulip, festival organizers have 20 left, which they plan to use at Commissionaires Park, and will not be selling.