A Second Life for Bulbs

On June 20, 2022, at a regular meeting of the Quebec City Council, Isabelle Roy, city councillor for the Robert-Giffard district, seconded by Patricia Boudreault-Bruyère, city councillor for the Neufchâtel-Lebourgneuf district, proposed that the city “draw inspiration from Canada’s National Capital Commission’s bulb donation program to recover and redistribute tulip bulbs, and that it take advantage of tree distribution days, so that citizens can easily obtain them and thus participate in flowering the city. “

Every year, Quebec City, like many municipalities around the world, plants thousands of bulbs on its territory, including tulips. Once they’ve bloomed and wilted, these bulbs are removed and thrown away with the residual waste, i.e. composted.

SCANDAL! (I love screaming scandal, I must admit.)

Why not redistribute these bulbs to citizens or community organizations?

Maison Girardin, Beauport district, Quebec City. Photo by Isabelle Roy.

Quebec City’s Reaction

On July 4, 2002, Benjamin Aubert wrote in his article Québec Refuses to Distribute Its Tulip Bulbs, published in Métro Québec, that “environmental, technical and economic analyses are required to adequately assess the feasibility of this proposal” and that “it is not possible to carry out these analyses in the short term”.

In response to my requests for information from the City of Quebec, I was told that “last year, a first pilot project for bulb donations to an organization, Engrenage Saint-Roch, was carried out. Analyses are underway this year to determine the terms of donations for a second year of the pilot project. In addition, there are no plans to organize a bulb distribution for the time being.”

Another Unofficial Pilot Project

At the same time, in the borough of Beauport, Ms. Roy was running another pilot project, this one unofficial. With the help of the borough director and the collaboration of Croque ton Quartier and local residents, 1,000 bulbs were harvested on the Maison Girardin site. They were then transported by the maintenance company to the organization’s collective space.

Self-service tulips. Photo: Facebook de Croque ton quartier

Ms. Roy also collected a few bulbs for redistribution to the citizens of her district. All this was organized via the Croque ton quartier Facebook site, with little involvement from the city of Quebec. So it was a grassroots, informal movement, rather than a centralized one, that succeeded in bringing this project to fruition, with few resources.

National Capital Commission (NCC)

Ms. Roy was inspired, in part, by the National Capital Commission‘s bulb donation program, which plants 100 varieties of tulips in 120 flowerbeds in 30 different locations in Ottawa and Gatineau, Canada.

This is in addition to the thousands of tulips planted for the Canadian Tulip Festival, which takes place every year in mid-May.

The NCC donation program is for not-for-profit organizations only. Schools, hospitals, churches, municipalities, horticultural societies and other non-profit organizations are invited to send their request to the NCC in early May, along with the following information:

  • Name of non-profit organization (on letterhead)
  • Reason for request
  • Name, telephone number and e-mail address of contact person
  • Quantity of bulbs required

Bulbs must be used in gardens on the organization’s property. In addition, bulbs may not be used for fundraising, or for the personal use of members of the public.

Bulbs harvested on the Maison Girardin site. Photo: Isabelle Roy.


The town of L’Ancienne-Lorette, on the outskirts of Quebec City, takes a different approach. When the bulbs have finished blooming, they are harvested and bagged 8 at a time. This collection represents the bulk of the work for the city’s employees.

The bulbs are available during the annual tree shoot distribution at the end of May. First come, first served, with a maximum of 8 bulbs per person. Every year, some 6,000 tulip bulbs are handed out to citizens.

Previously, bulbs were sent to the Ecocentre. The initiative came from a city councillor.

How to Get Involved

For Quebec City residents who would like to see the practice of bulb redistribution spread throughout their beautiful municipality, the best thing to do is write to the city by e-mail.

You can also express your interest to your municipal councillors.

For the rest of you, what’s going on in your town with bulbs? Does your municipality have a bulb redistribution program?

Mathieu manages the jardinierparesseux.com and laidbackgardener.blog websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

1 comment on “A Second Life for Bulbs

  1. Linda Foulis

    They toss them out! That’s insane! This just reeks of gov’t stupidity. As usual.
    We don’t have tulips planted in our area, we would just be feeding the deer. We’re a bit too cold here in zone 2b, I’ve tried.

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