When you think of raiding and looting in history what springs to mind ?
Ancient relics perhaps ? Maybe hoards of precious gems and gold or rare art. How about Tulips anyone ?
Yes Tulips which are now available everywhere from garden centres to your local Supermarket were once so highly sought after that gardens were pilfered and raided for these prized bulbs.
Originally from the Ottoman Empire these bulbs are now synonomous with Holland. They were introduced to the Dutch in the 1600’s and immediately became popular. When a virus caused unusual flame type colouring but didn’t kill the bulb their popularity soared even higher and demand went through the roof. Families lives were wrecked as trading in tulips became so popular that when Tulip Mania took hold it caused one of the first economic bubbles. Bulbs became so sought after that the prices soared and by the the mid 1600’s people were offering their houses in exchange for bulbs. Deals were struck in what would eventually be known as futures trading as they were buying the bulbs and not the flowers themselves. Eventually the bulbs became so incredibly expensive that even speculators couldn’t afford to buy them and demand disappeared overnight ruining many families. ( In early 1637 a single bulb of the rare Semper Augustus could fetch enough to buy a substantial house on the canal in Amsterdam or feed a few families for years. Despite the crash and loss of income the Dutch luckily retained their interest and love of tulips. They continued to breed and sell these gorgeous flowers thankfully at a price that everyone can afford. Every year huge there are huge tulips fairs all over Holland and magnificent displays of every species and colour of tulip imaginable. Turkey too has its own tulip gardens which are breathtaking in their colour and sheer size. Many of the famous gardens in the UK such as Wisley and Sissinghurst have wonderful tulips displays and plant hundreds of thousands of these bulbs every year. The Tulip is Hollands national flower and rightly so as it is one of the main exporters of these spectacular bulbs . Tulips became so popular they featured in paintings and had festivals dedicated to them. To us gardeners I think its the sheer exuberance and variety of colours that bring us such joy. They bloom at a time of year when we are all tired of winter and drab skys and they herald in the summer with all its garden pleasures to come.
When growing these garden delights the main thing to remember is they originated in Turkey where its mainly dry winter or summer. Tulips don’t like to have wet feet so try to plant them where there’s good drainage. Most huge gardens open to the public replant tulips every autumn in their thousands as many types especially the doubles don’t do well in following years. I thinks thats such hard work so in future am going to plant the non repeat tulips in pots and just enjoy them for their brief but glorious reign from April to May.
Then the worker bees of the tulip world such as all the Darwin Hybrids will go in the beds so I don’t have to disturb everything each autumn. Nothing annoys me more than putting a spade through a perfectly good bulb I forgot was there and as I also have snowdrops and other bulbs I want something that is perennial. For Tulips that come back reliably I’m continuing to plant a few favourites. Spring Green is a gorgeous white with a green stripe, Ballerina is a gorgeous orange, Appledorn is a great Darwin Hybrid which comes in shades of red, yellow and an mix of the two colours. I haven’t tried it yet but believe Princess Irene is a reliable and gorgeous orange . Plant in November in a sunny position and plant as deeply as you can.