Tulips are from Amsterdam as everyone knows. They grow in huge rainbow-coloured rows in fields amongst the windmills and dikes which keep the cold North Sea at bay. They also look very at home in blue and white Delftware vases and are immortalised in paintings by the Dutch Masters.
Tulips are in fact originally from Turkey and Persia. Belonging to the lily family, they grow in the wild in Southern Europe and Central Asia. The tulip featured strongly in Ottoman art and culture – it was their symbol. Tulips were worn in turbans and this is how they got their name. European diplomats probably first encountered tulips at the Ottoman Court in Istanbul in the sixteenth Century and took the tulips home with them.
One tulip: the price of a brewery
Their popularity spread quickly and prices rose as the demand spiralled, causing the big boom and bust of Tulip mania which took place from 1633-1637. At one point demand was so great that a whole brewery was exchanged for one bulb of the aptly named variety Tulip Brasserie. Homes, estates and industries were mortgaged by both the rich and poor alike in order to speculate in the bulb market. Fortunes made and then fortunes lost when the bubble burst and the market came crashing down. Despite this the tulip love affair endures, their beauty crystallised in the paintings of Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt.
It is hard to believe that tulips have an enemy – a disease which affects only them. Tulip fire is caused by the fungus Botrytis tulipae. This name is given because the plants appear scorched by fire. Fungal spores attack emerging tulip leaves in late winter, causing both the foliage and flowers to be malformed. The RHS gives advice on how to control the fungus, however tulips are survivors.
Thrill of the tulip
One of the surest signs of Spring, it is the national flower of both Turkey and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands they are grown for both bulbs and cutflowers for gardens and vases around the world. The anticipation of planting tulip bulbs during the cold November and December days is almost a tradition in itself. When you are looking at the pictures on the bulb packets of the tulips in flower, you feel some of the thrill that a speculator must have felt in the Netherlands three hundred years ago. Visions dance in your head of the painterly stripes and colours of the Rembrandt types, the beauty of the frilled edge types and the flamboyantly fringed edges of the parrot tulip.
If you are having a Spring Celebration with armfuls of tulips you can hire our blue and white vases. Below are some of the vases which tulips tend to look at their best in.