Every April since 2006 the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality has planted nearly 100 million tulips, symbolizing the coming of spring, in İstanbul’s parks, avenues, roundabouts and practically anywhere there is open ground. The result is a tradition of a splendid spring flower festival with bright splashes of color everywhere.
This year, as part of the eighth edition of the International İstanbul Tulip Festival, 13 million tulips –- almost equal to one for each person living in the city -- of 120 different varieties have been planted in İstanbul.
Typically, work crews arrange the flowers in a number of geometric shapes and figures such as waves, dolphins or the Turkish flag. In addition to parks and gardens, crossroads, rest areas and walking areas in the city have been dotted with the tulips at a cost of TL 13 million. With the addition of other bulbous plants, such as hyacinths and amaryllis, 20 million plants have been planted for the festival with Emirgan Park -- a historic urban park located in one of İstanbul’s finest neighborhoods along the Bosporus on the European side -- being the main venue for the festival.
This year the biggest novelty from previous tulip festivals is the “Tulip Museum” the municipality has established in Emirgan Park. The museum has rarely found tulip species, and also exhibited are paintings of old Ottoman gardens. Furthermore, the İstanbul City Council has decided to bring together a group of academics to research the role of tulips in Turkish culture as part of the festival.
Although the festival takes place only in İstanbul, municipalities in other provinces also mark the tulip season with various activities. The Manisa Municipality has distributed tulips to the residents in a nursing home, the Keçiören district mayor in Ankara handed out tulips to hundreds of Kurdish locals during Nevruz celebrations, and 7,000 tulips were distributed to locals by municipal officials in a square in Düzce in late March.
The tulip festival in İstanbul also draws a number of tourists both from other parts of the country and from other countries -- the Balkan countries and Japan in particular.
Mehmet İhsan Şimşek from the municipality said tulip bulbs are planted all around İstanbul in November and December and that they begin to bloom around the end of March or beginning of April, depending on weather. They bloom for several weeks and may delight the eye and the spirit for nearly a month.
Şimşek said it is impossible for Turkey to rival Holland, the number one tulip growing country in the world. However, he added, tulip cultivation is also a giant sector in Turkey, employing 235,000 people.
The municipal official noted that the public has become more considerate with each festival. People used to pick tulips during the first festivals now but they try not to damage them, he said. “Tulips have become part of the city, like they used to be before,” Şimşek stated.