`From Sultans of the Ottoman Empire and Dutch Merchants of the Golden Age, to gardeners today, the tulip has captivated people around the world for centuries. This fascinating flower has inspired artists and brought great wealth and even economic ruin to people who have fallen under its spell.’ The Tulip Museum, Amsterdam.
There are at least 16 different divisions of tulips. My favourite are the more flamboyant, frilly double ones and those that are bi-coloured, rather than the simple single tulips. However single tulips do look great when planted in groups. I had several sumptuous red tulips in bloom in April and they inspired the creation of my Posy of the Month.
Single Early Tulips
Single Early Tulips bloom early in the season (compared to other tulips). They are known for having very strong stems. This means that they will stand up extremely well to wind and rain, unlike some other types of tulips (for example, Parrot Tulips).
Apricot Beauty – Single Early Tulip
I have both `Groenland’ and `Spring Green’ Viridiflora tulip varieties. The term Viridiflora is derived from two Latin words: viridis meaning green and flos meaning flower. All Viridiflora Tulips have a streak of green somewhere on each petal. This contrasts dramatically with the basic flower colour (white, pink, gold, etc.). In addition to this beautiful colour contrast, Viridiflora Tulips are also known for their exceptionally long flowering capability. Some of mine have been known to flower in June!
Other tulip divisions include the Fringed Tulips. These tulips have petals which are topped with fringes that look like the frayed edge of a piece of satin fabric.
Then there are Lily-Flowered Tulips. These tulips have long single flowers with pointed petals, often curving out at the tips. They flower in late spring.
One of my favourite colour schemes this April has been these jolly orange tulips against the blue of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and the bluebells.
Double Late Tulips
I have had quite a few double varieties in bloom this year. The blooms of Double Late Tulips have so many petals that they are also known as Peony-flowered Tulips. They flower in late spring. The blossoms are extremely large; when fully open they can be as much as 4 inches (10 cm) across. The large showy flowers, resemble peonies. They often have weak stems which will not support the large flowers in wind and rain.
Lilac Perfection Tulip
Parrot tulips have large, often bi-colored, flowers with frilled and/or twisted petals. They flower in mid and late spring. Their stems are often too weak to support the large flowers so staking is sometimes necessary.
Another variety are Rembrandt Tulips. These tulips are named after the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt (1606 – 1669), who lived and worked in Holland at about the same time that tulips first became enormously popular. Actually Rembrandt himself is not known for painting flowers! Many other Dutch Masters of the time did include tulips in their paintings.
Jacob Marrel Tulips 1640
Jacob Marrel was a German still life painter active in Utrecht during the Dutch Golden Age. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
During this time, tulips became all the rage in Holland, particularly the ones with streaks and stripes of colour. These types of tulips were bought for huge sums during the so-called Tulip mania that occurred between 1593 and 1637.
We now know that these unusual markings were actually caused by a virus, which eventually caused damage to the tulip bulbs. Because of this, the original Rembrandt Tulips are no longer sold commercially. However, there are quite a few modern, virus-free, Rembrandt “look-alike” tulips available.
History of the Tulip
Tulips are often considered a Dutch flower. However the tulip was originally a wild flower growing in Central Asia. They were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The botanical name for tulip is tulipa and is derived from the Turkish word tulbend or turban which the flower resembles. Tulips abound in the design of Iznik ceramics. The elegant tulips of Iznik tiles are far removed from bulbous modern-day tulips. They most resemble contemporary lily form varieties.
The tulip was introduced to Holland in 1593 by a botanist Carolus Clusius, who bought it from Constantinople. He planted a small garden with the aim of researching the plant for medicinal purposes. His neighbours broke into the garden and stole the tulips to make some quick money. This started the Dutch Bulb Trade. Tulip Mania followed. People bought up bulbs to the extent that they became so prized and expensive that the bulbs themselves were used as money until the market finally crashed. As the Dutch Golden Age grew tulips became popular in paintings and festivals. When I visited art galleries in Amsterdam I saw lots of tulips in paintings by the Dutch Masters.
Ambrosius Bosschaert – Still Life with a Bouquet of Tulips
Beyond the Dutch Golden Age tulips remained a popular design motif in the Art Nouveau Period.
William Morris also included a lot of tulips in his wall hangings in the Arts and Crafts Movement.
My April Posy was inspired by looking at the work of the Dutch Masters. I don’t normally take photographs which are low-key as I prefer lighter high-key images. However I’m pleased with my images. I felt that a darker backdrop would show off my vibrant red tulips well. I have arranged them in two different vintage jugs. One is a traditional copper Guernsey milk can. The other was a jug which my Grandmother inherited. I don’t know it’s date or history. However I do know my Gran referred to it as `The Never Forgive Jug’. She felt it had some value and had been given to her grandfather by the lady of a big house where he was a gardener in Kent. It was called this name as no-one would be forgiven if it was ever broken!