Granny' s garden tulips have just gone over. They were pretty short-lived this year having been sizzled early by unseasonably hot sun then drizzled by gusting south-westerlies but the sight of them set me remembering...
Back in the 1950's and 60's, the town of Spalding in Lincolnshire, hosted the Spalding Festival whose spectacularly colourful floats were reported on world-wide. Tulip heads, surplus to the thriving bulb trade were first used on flower-bedecked floats to celebrate King George V and Queen Mary's Jubilee in 1935. The grand and up-lifting spectacle caught people's imagination and after the war, the idea of an annual festival of flowers was revived.
At its peak, the colourful massed blooms of the bulb fields played host to coach trips, while the parade itself drew crowds of over 100,000 as themed floats made up of thousands of flower heads wound slowly through the town. Our ever-capricious weather sometimes meant the tulips were too late in blooming to use, so daffodils and hyacinths were substituted instead. When they too were unavailable, crepe paper was used.
Over the ensuing years the crowds declined and in 2013 the local councils withdrew funding, leaving the magical parade to become a shadow of its former floral self. After all, bulb and flower production had largely moved to Holland and as vegetables took over vacated fields, flower-only floats all but disappeared, with today's parade reflecting more diverse local themes.
A drive through the Lincolnshire fens today is a much duller affair than in the past. After all, cabbages will never hold quite the appeal of a kaleidoscope of spring bulbs!