On Tuesday 23 October in the National Botanic Gardens, the groundwork for Ireland’s very first tulip portraitw as laid. The portrait of Joyce began with a planting ceremony of the first tulip bulbs, with the Dutch Ambassador Paul Schellekens and local school children from Scoil Mobhi primary school in Glasnevin Dublin and Saint Michael’s National School in Limerick doing the honours.

Matthew Jebb, director of the National Botanic Gardens welcomed the guests on a drizzly afternoon, serving perfect weather for planting the tulip bulbs. Mark Traynor, Director of the James Joyce Centre and the Ambassador of the Netherlands in Ireland, Paul Schellekens emphasised the importance of the presence of the James Joyce tulip portrait as a symbol of cooperation between two nations. The Ambassador said in his speech that this “work of art […] will constitute a fusion of two symbols that represent our respective countries, Ireland and the Netherlands.”

The planting ceremony of the first tulip bulbs then took place. Ambassador Schellekens was aided by 9 enthusiastic children, from Scoil Mobhi primary school in Glasnevin and Saint Michael’s National School in Limerick. Also present were the grand nephew of James Joyce, Bob Joyce and his wife, and James Joyce look-a-like, John Shevlin.

The project was overseen by Jan Guldenmond, former landscape architect of the Keukenhof flower bulb fields in the Netherlands and his partner/assistant, Nol van Ruiten. Some 17,000 grape hyacinth bulbs and 6000 tulip bulbs will form the portrait. This is the first time this Dutch expertise is brought to Ireland. It is a very special occasion in which both the Dutch tulip experts and Irish horticulture experts work alongside each other. The planting of the portrait takes 3 days in total. According to Guldenmond, the portrait will fully bloom in the beginning of April 2013.

The tulip portrait is being jointly sponsored by the Office of Public Works, the National Botanic Gardens, the Irish Museums Trust, the James Joyce Centre with the support of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Beechill Bulbs from Co. Offaly, Jac. Uittenbogaard & Zonen (JUB) from the Netherlands and by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Earlier this year the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands organised a tulip naming competition for a white & lilac-coloured tulip, specially cultivated for Ireland. The winning entry of the competition was the name Molly Bloom – suggested by Mary McClure from Limerick. From there, the idea of having a tulip portrait, to honour James Joyce, ‘bloomed’.

Make sure to plan a visit to the National Botanic Gardens in the spring of 2013, to see James Joyce’s portrait bloom in all its vibrant glory!

Note to the gardens and/or retailers: For those interested in purchasing the Molly Bloom tulip or the Mary McAleese tulip, please contact Beechill Bulbs Ltd or call +353 (0) 57 93 22956.