Of all the bulbous plants, Tulips are one of the most admired and beloved flowers around the world around. Although Tulips are grown everywhere, the largest variety can be found growing in Holland where they have a history dating back to the sixteenth century in the township of Leiden.
Historians have been able to establish that Tulips most likely originated thousands of years ago in a small area between Northern China and Southern Europe. The Latin name, “Tulipa” comes from the Turkish word tulbend as the Turks, believed the flower resembled a turban.
During the reign of the Ottoman Empire and of Sultan Suleiman I in the 1500’s, Tulips were cultivated for the pleasure of the Sultan and his entourage, symbolizing wealth and prestige. The Tulip was so highly regarded, this period became known as ‘Age of the Tulips’.
The tulip was brought to Europe by Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, who was the Ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire to Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566). Seeds were also sent to Clusius of the Royal Medicinal Gardens in Prague, who wound up fleeing to The Netherlands to become the curator of the Leiden botanical gardens. Although these gardens were chiefly for supplying f herbs and plants for medicinal purposes, Clusius had brought his impressive collection of Tulips with him and so planted these also in the gardens.
The first “tulipmania” occurred in Holland in 1634-37, although tulipmania also occurred in Turkey during the reign of Ahmed III in 1702-20. In both countries, bulbs were sold for incredible prices and fortunes made (and lost) overnight on speculating in bulbs. During the early 1700’s the Turks held the first Tulip Festival on the evening of a full moon. Guests were obliged to wear colorful clothing that harmonized with the beautiful flowers and lanterns lit the garden lines with hundreds of exquisite vases filled with the most breath-taking Tulips. Tulips could always be found in the gardens of Emperors, Kings, Princes, Archbishops and members of the aristocracy as they were became a popular hobby for the extremely rich who were fascinated by their mystery and value. Often mirrors would be set up in the garden to give the illusion that the owner had been able to afford to plant many more tulips than he actually had.
Early in the 17th century, rich Dutchmen, Englishmen, and Frenchmen were competing with each other for these prize status symbols. New color varieties brought especially huge prices, however in 1637, the Tulip craze came to a halt when sellers could not get the prices they asked for and Tulip prices plummeted, causing a financial crisis. Over the following decades, interest in the Tulip rose and fell but the Dutch maintained a commercial devotion to these flowers (today they export 1.2 billion bulbs annually). Dutch migrants abroad became responsible for spreading the popularity of the Tulip, making the flower synonymous with the Dutch.
Now, more than 400 years later, billions of tulips are being cultivated; a majority exported from Holland. The huge array of tulip colors available makes them a perfect flower for any garden. Although the Tulip is available all year long, Tulips are best planted in the fall and need to be fertilized twice a year, especially in the spring before they blossom. Tulips also need lots of water, with watering once a week at the bare minimum. Tulip bulbs should be planted three times deeper than their height to prevent rabbits, squirrels and moles from uprooting and eating them (they are like chocolate to these critters!) Just like the rabbits and squirrels, Tulips can be eaten by people as well! Tulips petals can be added to appetizers, salads and desserts to give texture and to make these dishes more colorful and exciting.
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