Like every year in late autumn, bulb planting day is approaching. I usually get things moving by giving my husband a whole sackful for his birthday, and selecting and shopping for the bulbs at the garden centre is definitely the more attractive part of this project for me.
Afterwards, when I dig through the cold November soil with clammy fingers, I ask myself from time to time whether tulips are absolutely necessary in spring… But in the end my answer is always “Yes, they are!” In the Netherlands, tulips are a kind of holy relic, and it is hard to imagine a garden, roundabout or public square without them in spring.
Numerous sources describe their “world tour” as follows. From Asia, the tulips arrived in Turkey and grew – as a symbol of power and wealth – in the gardens of the “better bred”. Sultan Suleyman I occasionally gave tulips from his garden to important guests – for example, to the Austrian ambassador from Vienna. The latter, on the other hand, gave some to Carolus Clusius, who was in charge of the gardens of the Emperor of Austria at the time. In 1593, Clusius became professor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and head of the “Hortus Botanicus” (Hortus Botanicus) there. It was in this botanical garden that the first tulips were grown in the Netherlands. – How small the world was even in the 16th century – at least for high society!
At that time, tulip prices in Western Europe rose continuously because of the great demand, and tulips became an object of speculation on the stock exchange. According to Wikipedia, this “tulip mania” was the first “well-documented speculative bubble in economic history” – the Bitcoins of the 17th century, so to speak!
While browsing through the spring flowering catalogue, I read the names of the tulips – pure eroticism! Strong Love, Passionale, Sweet Rosie, Foxtrot, Charmer, Pretty Woman. What’s this? They are flowers! – And what should you make of the tulip called “Fun for two“? While I was still weighing what expectations would be raised if my husband found these in his birthday parcel, I also came across celebrity godfathers and godmothers for tulips: Audrey Hepburn, Queen Beatrix and – last but not least – the Dutch national football coach Louis van Gaal all gave tulip varieties their names. (I wonder if the van Gaal tulip would have been renamed if the Dutch national team had lost the World Cup qualifier against Norway).
Perhaps many tulips only have such “hot” names so that you don’t suffer as much when you thrusting the tulip bulbs into cold, wet soil? Which takes us back to the clammy fingers – the psychological concept of delayed gratification plays a big part in planting spring flowers when children help out. “Garden children” are usually already used to waiting a few weeks for the first green to show from the sown radishes, but tulips and daffodils with the month-long wait until a result can be seen are a completely different challenge!
Wilhelm Busch summed up this important experience: “Perseverance is rewarded sooner or later – but usually later.”
Sources: Museum De Zwarte Tulp, royalfloraholland.com, tulpen.nl, utopia.de, Wikipedia
Original text: BBR
English translation: BCO