Around 200,000 orange lilies are expected to be in bloom throughout the Province this summer thanks to the craft of ‘green-fingered’ members of the Orange Institution.
In a creative bid to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and to commemorate the heavy losses suffered by the 36th Ulster Division, organisers hope the flowers will symbolically bloom on July 1.
A spokesman for the Orange Order said the lily bulbs, which have been imported from Holland, will be packed, labelled and bagged in the coming days by a team of volunteers for distribution throughout the Institution and the wider community.
Recipients are encouraged to plant the bulbs in early April – so their blooming corresponds with the actual summer centenary.
Chairman of the orange lily organising committee, Robert Cummings, said the project would have a “particular personal significance for many members of the Institution”.
“The Battle of the Somme will forever be seared into the psyche of the Orange family,” he said.
“A phenomenal number of Orangemen served their King and country, with many wearing their colours as they went over the top.
“In my own private lodge, 18 members left for the battle fields, and only 10 returned. Indeed, the then worshipful master was killed on the first day at the Somme.
“Many brethren will have relatives who answered the call of duty, and fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today.
“Their courage and sacrifice must always be remembered, and we trust the orange lilies will be a fitting tribute.”
He added that he expected lilies to also be planted in other Orange jurisdictions, including the border counties of the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, England and further afield.
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, says the orange lily bulb project is one of the most “ambitious and vibrant” tributes ever undertaken by the Institution, but will also be the most “poignant”.
“The orange lily is synonymous with the Twelfth of July, however, in 2016 we very much hope that flower beds across the Province will be bedecked with our flowers in a striking memorial tribute to those brave servicemen who paid the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf,” he said.
“I would encourage all members of the Orange fraternity, families, friends and supporters, to show their support, and recognise the heroism and selfless service of the 36th Ulster Division and the Allied Forces at the Somme, by planting a bulb on their behalf.”
The orange lily bulbs can be pre-ordered through relevant district lodges, or alternatively by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or contacting 07555 576489.