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Amsterdam - 17,586 kms - Tulip Festival in Victoria
by Stephen P D’Souza, Melbourne, Australia

October 13, 2008

When you think of the Netherlands (Holland), the first things that come to mind are cheese, wooden shoes, windmills and flower bulbs. The Tulip is often considered as a symbol of Holland though they are grown in large numbers in other parts of the world. We discovered Netherlands in the Tesselaar Tulip Festival in a place called Silvan, Victoria, 40 kms to the east of Melbourne city.

The Netherlands produce approximately nine billion flower bulbs annually. Evenly distributed, this number would allow for almost two flower bulbs for every person on the planet. The flower fields in the west of Holland are at their best in April and May because that’s when the spring bulbs tulips are flowering. 19,586 kms to the far east of Amsterdam - in Melbourne, the spring sets on September 1. Aalsmeer, close to Amsterdam, is the home of the world’s biggest flower auction.

The Dutch are very proud of their flower bulbs. Flower bulbs in the Netherlands are both a product and a passion. Each bulb, they like to say, holds a promise - a promise of a world alive with colour and good cheer, from the last snows of winter through the first frosts of autumn. For the rich and the famous the tulip was a status symbol in the Netherlands in the ancient days. Widely available at modest prices today, tulips are still closely associated with the Netherlands. 

However, the tulip is not a native Dutch flower. Like many other products in Western Europe, tulips came to the Netherlands from another part of the world.  Although tulips are associated with Holland, both the flower and it’s

name originated in the Ottoman Empire. The tulip originated and was first cultivated in Turkey over 400 years ago. The very first Tulip Festival was celebrated in 1700’s during a time know as the ‘Tulip Era.’ Today, the tulip is still an important flower and symbol in Turkey.


Tulipa, commonly called tulip, is a genus of about 150 species of bulbous flowering plants in the family Liliaceae. The native range of the species includes southern Europe, north Africa and Asia from Anatolia and Iran in the west to northeast of China. The centre of diversity of the genus is in the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountains and the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The species are perennials from bulbs, the tunicate bulbs often produced on the ends of stolons and covered with glabrous to variously hairy papery coverings. The species include short low-growing plants to tall upright plants, growing from 10 to 70 centimeters (4–27 in) tall. Tulips grow from bulbs, and can be propagated through both seeds and buds. Seeds from a tulip will form a flowering bulb after 7–12 years. When a bulb grows into the flower, the original bulb will disappear, but a clone bulb forms in its place, as do several buds. Properly cultivated, these buds will become bulbs of their own. The stems have no leaves to a few leaves, with large species having some leaves and smaller species have none. Typically species have one flower per stem but a few species have up to four flowers. The colorful and attractive cup shaped flowers have three petals and three sepals, which are most often, termed tepals because they are nearly identical.

Tesselaar Tulip Farm, Victoria:

The Tesselaar Tulip festival in Victoria has a Dutch connection. Cees and Johanna Tesselaar had left Holland on their wedding day to Australia in June 1939, just weeks before the outbreak of World War II, sailing on the last ship to leave Europe before the commencement of the war and made Melbourne their home. Once here, after five years of cultivating tulips in another suburb, they bought the property in Silvan (40 kms from Melbourne city) and realised their long-term dream. 

Cees and Johanna have since passed away – but its still a family affair, the business run by their eldest son Kees and his wife Sheila with the assistance from the extended family, on the same Silvan property Cees originally fell in love with. With every passing year the Tesselaar family have added more and more to the festival. In the picture above, Daniel (right) and Angus (left) carry on the legacy of their grand-father.

Out of 150 known species, we found 65 varieties here including the yellow Sancere and Golden parade; deep yellow Golden Apeldoor; peach pink Perestroyka; baby pink Rosalie; light pink Monet belle du monde; deep pink Monet burgundy lace; maroon Pomerol,  deep pink Boll royal silver; red Avignon; white with pink stripes Monet camargue; orange, pink and red Batavias; bone white Maureens; maroon pink Margaritas; white Mondials;  pinkish-white new designs; deep red pallada; monet carmargue; pink claudia; yellow and red Gerrit van der valks; thorny deep red, inner yellow Vallery gergievs;  deep yellow Jan van ness; pink and white Angeliques; white/green spring greens and other tulips with the names of Bird of paradise, Baracelona, Strong gold, Abigail, Orange princess, Fabio, Largo, Silentia, Monsella, Sevilla. Renown, Monet burgundy lace world’s favourite, Charmeur, Verandi, Swan wings, Rococo, Flaming parrot, Holland happeneing, Monet batavia, Viking, Carnival de nice, Evita, Abba, Madonna and many many more.

The Indian Connection:

Of late, there is an Indian connection to the tulip. A special variety of Dutch ‘orange and yellow edged’ tulip were named `Aishwarya Rai' after the former Miss World on the first day of the four-day International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) weekend in Amsterdam on June 9, 2005. Presenting Aishwarya with the tulips and the Certificate authenticating their new name, Hans van Driem, Managing Director, Netherlands Board of Tourism, had said that the tulips were a celebration of Rai’s beauty before sprinkling the tulips with champagne. Unfortunately, I could not find one here.

When tulips are in bloom it is the time for celebration. The tulip has carried more social, economic, religious, intellectual and cultural significance than any other flower. To give a streaked tulip means beautiful eyes … purple tulips symbolise undying love … and yellow tulips turned upside down symbolise a hopeless love.  


      Delight is the magic of spring – to experience thousands of flowering bulbs…

      Of shades of pink, orange, purple, yellow, white and deep red!

      Like the lilies and the peacocks, these tulips are useless - I had said,

      But nay, thence I found the world more colourful instead!

Stephen D'Souza - Archives:  

Comments on this article
Pam, USThursday, December 31, 2009
When is the tulip festival and what time of year is best for photographing the tulips?
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Jeane Morina, IndonesiaSunday, March 01, 2009
I Love Tulips. I  Love the tulip Festival too .
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John Pereira, KUlshekar/GhatkoparSunday, October 19, 2008

Kudos to Stephen D'Souza for this article with beautiful photographs. I felt nice to see the photos of Tulips of different variety. Incidentally, my b-in-law is a Dutch and dealing in horticulture flowers in NZ. I have emailed him this article and he may be happy to see the Dutch connection.

I also remember about the Tulip garden in President's lawn in New Delhi, the photograph of which was published some time back and I was very much impressed about it. I have preserved the clipping for posterity.

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Ophelia D'souza- Patrao, Miyar/MelbourneThursday, October 16, 2008
Thank you Stephen for your review on the Tulip Festival. I unfortunately missed out on the event, but was glad to have gotten a glimpse of the photos.
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Benny D'Souza, Madanthyar/DombivliFriday, October 17, 2008
Good information and excellent pictures of Tulip. Thanks to Mr Stephen and daijiworld for bringing to our notice this wonderful piece of nature.
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Stephen P. D'Souza, Kadri / MelbourneWednesday, October 15, 2008
Nature is wonderful indeed! As expressed in my poem at the end, I was the only one in a circle of family friends who vetoed the idea of visiting this place giving excuses and lo! ended up writing an Article. The ethnic (extended) families in their Dutch costumes made the place a 'Little Holland' and the drive to and fro through the hills amidst the jungles so to say, known as the 'Dandenong Ranges' made the excitement complete. Thanks Nicola, Rajpal, Lourdina and Merlyn for the admiration of nature and for your comments.
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Lourdina Rego, Mumbai/MelbourneTuesday, October 14, 2008
Thanks to Steve for taking so much effort in writing this article and the pictures are so beautiful. Its worth the time spent on the research.
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Rajpal Joseph D Silva, Kulshekar/DubaiMonday, October 13, 2008
Thank you Mr Stephen for the glimpse & the wonderful pictures of Tulip festival. It was Amazing. Keep up the good work. We expect many more articles in the days to come.
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