`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.
Last year I visited the Keukenhof tulip gardens in Holland and was inspired to plant my garden with tulip bulbs aiming for a riot of colour this Spring.
Spring was very late to spring this year! Our tulip display came in May not April, a few weeks later than normal. I was delighted with the glorious colours the tulips brought to my garden and grandly named one of my borders `the tutti-frutti border’ as it was a riot of different colours, changing as the month progressed.
There are at least 16 different divisions of tulips. My favourite are the more flamboyant, frilly double ones, rather then the simple single tulips.
However I liked the soft apricot tones of this single, early flowering variety. 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).
I liked the two tone effect of the pink and white tulips with the plain yellow ones as a backdrop.
I was particularly pleased with the tulip bulbs from the Sarah Raven Super Perennial Tulip Collection. I planted `Groenland’ and `Spring Green’ Viridiflora 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 are still flowering in June!
Other tulip divisions are the fringed tulips. These tulips have petals which are topped with fringes that look like the frayed edge of a piece of satin fabric.
Apart from lovely frilly, fringed tulips I have had quite a few double varieties in bloom this year. I planted Angelique and Lilac Perfection. The blossoms of Double Late Tulips have so many petals that their other name is Peony Tulips. The blossoms are extremely large ; when fully open they can be as much as 4 inches (10 cm) across.
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.
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 Tulipmania 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. (Unfortunately I grew no lily shaped tulips this year to show you a picture!)
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.
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.
I hope you have enjoyed my brief history of the Tulip. Do let me know which is your favourite tulip! I would also be interested in seeing any other examples of tulips in art or design.