Archive for the ‘Tulips’ Category


Tiptoeing Through The History Tulips

September 29, 2012

tulip.jpgLast week we looked at bulbs and different ways of planting them, so I thought that this week we could take a closer look at one of the most well known bulbs, tulips.

The Dutch are renowned for their passion for tulips and tulip growing has been a major crop since the 1600s.

Today nearly half of Holland’s flower bulb farms are planted with tulips.  Every year about 3 billion tulip bulbs are produced in Holland and around 2 billion of these are exported.

Surprisingly, tulips are not a native plant of Holland.

Tulips originate from Asia, their prime genetic centre being in the Tien-Shan and Pamir Alai Mountain Ranges near modern Islamabad, close to the border or Russia and China.

Tulips spread from these areas to other regions including China and Mongolia.  A secondary genetic centre developed in Azerbaijan and Armenia and from these area tulips spread to parts of Europe.

Tulips can be found today growing wild in regions of the Balkans, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and France with one French native being the Tulipa celsiana.  Strangely enough, the natural advance of tulips never reached the Netherlands.

Dutch tulip history begins in 1593 when the botanist Carolus Clusius planted the first tulips in Holland when he was appointed as the head botanist at thetulip.jpg first botanical garden in Western Europe at the University of Leiden.

It was Carolus’ refusal to give his prized tulip bulbs away that fuelled a demand for them as people saw a chance to make money from these new plants.  Unfortunately a burglary of Carolus’ collection followed and this could be said to be the start of the Dutch tulip industry.

The cultivation of tulips on Holland began slowly and at first the tulip was a rarity that only the wealthy could afford with tulips becoming a status symbol.

It wasn’t long before the tulip craze took off.  During Tulipmania, the tulip.jpgrenowned white and maroon “Rembrandt-type” tulip “Semper Augustus” could command a price as high as 3,000 guilders per bulb, that’s the equivalent of $1,500 U.S today.

Only a short time later a similar bulb fetched 4,500 guilder ($2,250 U.S), plus a horse and carriage!  Just like the dot-com crash of the nineties, the tulip crash of 1637 followed the boom.  People who had thought of themselves as very rich were now reduced to poverty literally overnight.

Today, tulips continue to be a popular flower and the Dutch will be forever associated with this plant mainly due to the Tulipmania of the 1600s.

So the next time you plant some tulips in your garden, remember the tulip boom of the 17th century and the extraordinary history of this beautiful flower.