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It's one thing to send flowers for friendship, but the Netherlands must really, really like Canada. Every year since the end of World War II, the Dutch royal family and the Dutch Bulb Growers Association have each sent 10,000 tulip bulbs to the Canadian capital, Ottawa, to express their gratitude for Canada's help during the war.
For the royal family's part, the gift is a special way to say "thank you" for Canada serving as a safe haven for Dutch Princess Juliana (the heir-apparent, who became queen in 1948) and her two daughters. The princesses relocated to Canada after the Netherlands was invaded and remained there for the rest of the war.
In fact, in 1943, Juliana gave birth to another daughter, Margriet, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The hospital's maternity ward was temporarily made extraterritorial, so that Margriet would not lose her claim to the Dutch throne.
For their part, the Dutch people send the flowers to thank Canada for its part in the liberation of their country from Nazi occupation. Every year, the tulips are planted in two beds in Ottawa – one at the hospital campus and one in Commissioners Park.
- There are over 3,000 varieties of tulips, including both naturally-occurring and genetically-cultivated varieties..
- During the speculative bubble known as "tulip mania" that hit the Netherlands in the 1630s, tulips became incredibly expensive, with some costing more than 10 times the annual salary of a skilled craftsman.
- Tulips bloom for a maximum of two weeks in cool spring weather, but may only last for a few days in hot weather.