Home Culture Culture Tulip Days in DC shine a light on shared US, Netherlands values

Tulip Days in DC shine a light on shared US, Netherlands values

Tulip Days in DC shine a light on shared US, Netherlands values
The Netherlands' Ambassador to the United States Birgitta Tazelaar stands amid tulips lining the walkway to the entrance to her residence in Washington, April 2024. The residence was decorated with tulips and plants native to the D.C. area for Tulip Days, April 10-12. (Embassy of The Nertherlands)

Spring, to the Dutch, means tulips in full bloom, and April brought a blast of color to the Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood as more than 10,000 of the perennial flowers decorated the residence of the ambassador of The Netherlands.

Guests, including 40 contest winners, were invited to take in the blooms, including one named after U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, and to hold some serious discussions during Tulip Days, from April 10-12. Freedom, sustainability and innovation were the topics.

“These are the values that bind us together,”  Dutch Ambassador Birgitta Tazelaar told visitors on April 11. “We are spending these three days discussing these values.”

In terms of freedom, she said, “We cannot talk about freedom if we don’t talk about Ukraine.”

“We want Ukraine to be free, as well,” she said, noting that blue and yellow tulips on the residence’s piano were arranged  to represent the Ukrainian flag.

The Netherlands has already given over €2.63 billion ($2.8 billion) in military support to Ukraine, with another €2 billion set aside for 2024, according to the Dutch government’s website.

The country of 17.7 million—roughly twice the population of New York City—has also provided funds for humanitarian aid, reconstruction and victims of war; provided Ukraine with medicine and relief goods, and supported investigations of human rights and international humanitarian law violations.

“And we really, really hope … that the US will also support them,” the ambassador said, “because they are fighting our war.”

Just over a week after she spoke, the House of Representatives passed a $95 billion foreign aid package that included $61 billion for Ukraine.

FLOTUS tulip

Among the tulips on display at the residence was a variety named after U.S. First Lady Jill Biden. It was one of the specialty tulips that spotlighted the innovative drive and spirit shared by the U.S. and The Netherlands.

U.S. First Lady Jill Biden waters a cluster of her namesake tulips during Tulip Days 2023. The Jill Biden tulip was among the varieties on display at the Dutch embassy in April 2024. (Embassy of The Netherlands)

The genesis of the Jill Biden tulip started some 20 years ago as plant ‘breeders’ at Hobaho by Dümmen Orange began developing the colors, shapes and other characteristics that last year became the flower that bears the First Lady’s name.

“Besides being very beautiful, it is also an extremely strong tulip,” Foeke Gardenier, director of Hobaho by Dümen Orange, said when the tulip was presented to Biden last year.

The Dutch have named tulips after seven U.S. first ladies, starting in the late 1800s with Frances Folsom Cleveland, the wife of President Grover Cleveland.

The Jill Biden tulips were planted at the White House, but the First Lady sent a few to the embassy for Tulip Days.

Turning to sustainability, Tazelaar praised the Netherlands and the United States for what they have done to grow their economies and fight poverty, but noted that many of those gains have come at the expense of the environment.

“We have to put more into sustainability,” she said.

Plants native to the D.C. area that need little water, are grown without fertilizer, and attract bees were on display alongside the tulips.

After serving as eye-candy for Tulip Days, the native plants were planted in the garden of the residence while the tulips were handed out by the ambassador at the International Student House in Dupont Circle, the embassy said on its Facebook page.

Karin Zeitvogel

Karin Zeitvogel started her journalism career at the BBC World Service and has worked since then for international media outlets and organizations including Agence France-Presse, U.N. agencies, Voice of America, RIA Novosti and the National Institutes of Health. She's lived in nine countries, speaks fluent French and German, good Spanish and a smattering of other languages.