Tulip Sunday  1948


In early spring one of the features of the Garden is the display of tulips. Some 25,000 to 30,000 tulips have been planted over recent years, although at their peak it is reported that some 70,000 to 100,000 bulbs were planted in some years in a series of massed displays, seen and enjoyed from mid September to early October. Each year new bulbs are planted.

This display has been a remembered and anticipated feature for many years, and Tulip Sunday in late September is an event not to be missed. With food and music it is always a great day.

The tulip display is concentrated in the Main Garden approached through the Main (Founders) Gate off Glenmore Street.

The history of the Tulip Sunday, Festival, Week has become clouded over time. 

Wellington City Archives advised in 2009 -----

16/10/1944 was the first Tulip Day, when it was held a few weeks after Daffodil Day,  then ran annually following the same format, which was to have live entertainment at the Soundshell. Usually there was 1 or 2 bands performing on the day, plus Clog Dancing by the Children of the New Zealand Netherlands Society This format ran until 1967, when it was decided to repeat the event on consecutive Sundays. This format then became the standard for a while and from
1968 became known as Tulip Week. In 1974 the event became known as the Tulip and Spring Flower Display, incorporating Tulip Week. The entertainment was changing also, and included such things as clowns and food stalls, as well as the usual bands and dancing. In 1987 we find the first mention of the Spring Festival, which incorporated the Tulip and Spring Flower Display.

(This informaqtion was sourced from newspaper clippings to confirm dates, although these do not now appear to be available).

 Flower displays in the Main Garden in particular have been a feature of the garden for many years, but the above report appears to confirm the start of a featured event.  The Garden History book notes that the tulip display started in 1948.  This is  the date the Dutch Government donated tulip and hycenth bulbs by way of giving thanks  to the people of New Zealand for sheltering children during World War II, an event commemorated by a seat plaque in the Sound Shell Lawn presented on 27 September 2009.    The Dutch Society still assists during Tulip Sunday with food and music, and the Garden has continued  the earlier tradition with displays that thrall all visitors.

Tulips are native of the high mountain ranges concentrated around Islamabad, close to the border of Russia and China, and have spread to the Balkans, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and France. There are not natives of Holland, although that country has extensively cultivated them.

Naturally they are found at high altitudes, experiencing winter snow during the winter which protects them from severe cold. They have been cultivated in the former Ottoman Empire for 1000 years.  Tulips were introduced into Europe around 1600, with the Dutch in particular becoming enchanted with these flowers. Since then the Dutch have developed an extensive tulip industry, producing some 3 billion bulbs each year, approximately 2 billion of which are exported to countries around the world.