Tulip Surprise

I’m a sucker for those value packages of fall planting bulbs, especially when they are sold by colour, being of course – purple.  I bought two packages last fall.  With those packages you never know what you are going to get, they are just a mix.  A pleasant surprise this spring, beautiful two toned tulips in the front yard.

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Admirael van der Eijck from the 1637 catalog of P.Cos., sold for 1045 guilders on February 5, 1637

The introduction of the tulip to Europe in the late 1500’s created quite a stir and within a few decades the tulip became a coveted luxury item.  At one point the price of certain tulip bulb in a much sought after variety cost 10 times the yearly wage of a skilled labourer.   Developed mainly in the United Provinces (The Netherlands) it became a status symbol which resulted in Tulip Mania.

The Canadian Tulip Festival occurs every May in Ottawa, a display of millions of tulips blooming in brilliant colour.  It was initiated in response to the birth of a baby girl during World War II.  In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War.

The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was declared to be officially a temporary part of international territory, so that she would be born in no country and would inherit only her Dutch citizenship from her mother. To commemorate the birth, the Canadian Parliament flew the Dutch flag over Peace Tower. This is the only time a foreign flag has flown over the Canadian Parliament Building.  In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.  While the Netherlands continues to send 20,000 bulbs to Canada each year (10,000 from the Royal Family and 10,000 from the Dutch Bulb Growers Association), by 1963 the festival featured more than 2 million, and today sees nearly 3 million tulips purchased from Dutch and Canadian distributors.

Tulips are the only flower that continues to grow in the vase after being cut. They can continue to grow up to another 3 inches. They also conform to the shape of the container, straight up if in a tall container, twisting to fit into a flat or irregular shaped vase.

The ancient Turks used to brew a love potion from tulips and many cultures consider tulips to be the symbol of perfect love.

In the early 1700s, A Turk by the name of Sultan Ahmed III was the first to begin importing bulbs from Holland. But it proved a fatal attraction. When Sultan Ahmed was brought to trial, his crimes included “having spent too much money on the traditional annual tulip festivals”. The sentence: He was beheaded.

In Japan, certain flour is made from tulips.

In times of famine the Dutch have eaten tulip bulbs when no other food was available.

Hans Gillisz. Bollongier, Flower Piece, Frans Hals Museum, 1644. The top flower was always the most expensive one and in this bouquet it is the tulip Semper Augustus.

William Morris 1875 design printed on cotton

Of course, a nod to my favourite arts and crafts artist, William Morris.

The tulip and the butterfly
Appear in gayer coats than I:
Let me be dressed fine as I will,
Flies, worms, and flowers exceed me still.
~Isaac Watts

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6 comments on “Tulip Surprise

  1. lalinsocal says:

    Thank you, I never knew that, I just always enjoyed how beautiful the tulips were without the history, I can’t grow tulips down here in SoCal so I’ll have to live vicariously through you 😉

    • antarabesque says:

      What!! NO tulips?! Too dry? Too hot? It doesn’t get cold enough? My condolences, that’s a crime.
      Being of Dutch heritage and Canadian born, I am so proud of that connection between the two countries. My mother was born in occupied Holland and remembers the Canadian soldiers arriving upon the liberation of the country.

  2. Elizabeth E. says:

    Great post! I love tulips and have them in my yard, and I yes, I live in Southern California. They come up every year and I love them (just need to get varieties marked for your area, I think). Now, I need to figure out how to grow lilacs! They have them over at our university’s botannic garden so I know it’s possible. But I do know that peonies are out of the question.

    • antarabesque says:

      I love lilacs too. We had a huge hedge of them along the road allowance at ‘the Farm’ (still there). I would pick them, without permission, and carry them around with me all day so I could inhale their fragrance. Heavenly! What is the challenge with peonies in Southern California, too hot/dry?

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