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Tale behind the tulips

Search: Woman tracks down rare varieties special to her father
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Cultivating: Salmon Arm resident Marion Huysmans waters tulips which she planted in honour of her father.

The tulips blooming in Marion Huysmans’ yard are growing into more than just flowers. Three years ago, when she found out her father’s cancer was terminal, she decided to reconnect with her Dutch heritage and learn her father’s gardening tricks. Since then, she has managed to grow tulips that journeyed three countries and have connected her with more family history than she ever expected.

“Once I realized my time was more limited I thought the best way to remember him and keep him alive is learn all of these things that he’s learned over his 80 years,” Huysmans said.

Huysmans has always shared her love for gardening with her father, Peter, but could never compete with his garden.

While living in Limmen, Holland, her grandfather grew three types of tulips in their family garden that were later obtained by the Hortus Bulborum, a bulb garden that has preserved many flowers that have gone commercially extinct. Huysmans set out to find the three varieties, although her father believed they didn’t exist any more.

It only took a little research to find that Old House Gardens in Michigan still carries one of the varieties in their catalogue. They were also able to order the other two from none other than Hortus Bulborum itself.

“The bulbs are coming from a place where my parents still have roots,” Huysmans said.

Old House Gardens doesn’t usually ship to Canada, but was more than willing to send Huysmans the bulbs that meant so much to her. Since planting the bulbs in the fall, the Generaal de Wet and Brilliant Star have bloomed.

“It encompasses every connection I’ve ever felt with my dad,” Huysmans said. “I don’t have words for what it is.”

Her father just celebrated his 85th birthday, in the spring when the flowers bloom. Huysmans says the spring will have a new significance for her.

“My dad is never going to be gone, never,” she said.