By: Brent and Becky
"The tulip’s petals shine in dew. All beautiful, but none alike."
- James Montgomery
Tulips are internationally adored flowers that have charmed people everywhere for centuries. Their stunning and vibrant blooms are a cheerful start to the spring and a fantastic show of color when we’ve gotten too used to the muted grays and browns of winter. Already a classic and a favorite, it turns out that tulips have an interesting history that easily puts other spring bulbs to shame. Popular from the moment they were brought to Europe, these delightful flowers stirred up such excitement that they broke banks!
Today it might sound like a cute term to describe our love for these flowers, but “Tulip Mania” is actually a term for a historical period. To have a look at our obsession with these flowers, we have to take a step back hundreds of years ago to the Netherlands in the 17th century.
The involvement of Netherlands in the history of the tulip is likely not a surprise to many. The country is so overflowing with them in our time that we can’t help but make the association. In reality, it wasn’t until the 1590s that these flowers made their way to the Netherlands. When they did arrive, however, they made such an impact that they were an instant hit.
The growing middle class were eager for ways to show off their developing status and wealth. These stunning, delicate, gorgeous imports were the perfect expensive way to show off. Tulips were quickly adopted as a symbol of luxury, and creating gardens of these plants was a priority for many middle class homes. Things might have changed when the Mosaic virus attacked the tulip populations, but it only made them more sought after. The virus didn’t affect the flowers’ ability to grow and bloom, but it created exciting new patterns of colors that made them even more popular. This color pattern is now known as "Rembrandt".
Tulips were expensive, but their prices were relatively stable until 1634. That year, French merchants also discovered the tulip and became just as infatuated with it as the Dutch. With the French also interested in buying up these bulbs, the prices went through the roof. Tulips were being sold at ridiculous prices - sometimes even as much as a house!
The bulb trade exploded and popular interest matched the fervor. What started as an exciting but pretty symbol of luxury became a competition. People wanted to buy the best and latest, and merchants wanted to profit off the lucrative tulip market. Demand was so high that people started to deal in contracts for bulbs before they were even grown.
This "buy now, pay later" trading might sound a little too familiar to us in our lifetime. Bulbs slowly became more accessible and in ready supply, halting demand and crashing prices. Everyone wanted to sell and nobody was buying, and the tulip market crashed just like the stock market. People who had liquidated lands and savings for tulips were left broke and the “mania” was finally over - with a lot of people left with a sour taste for the flowers.
Tulips fell out of favor in the Netherlands for a while as people had a distaste for the blooms that cost them so much. In the end, the charm of these flowers must have won the Dutch people over again, as they are still blooming as a symbol for the country today.
Today, there are 3 types of Tulip fans: 1) "I love them and grow them often." 2) "I love them but don't grow them because they don't perennialize for a long time, and deer and squirrels love them, too." 3) "Tulips? Nah." Not sure we can help Type #3, but for all of you 1's and 2's out there, here are some tips that might help you.
This is probably what we hear most about Tulips. Deer, squirrel and voles love them, too. We have some ideas that you may want to try. Species Tulips or those that are defined by the Royal General Bulbgrower’s Association as "In fact not a cultivar group, the the collection of all species, varieties and their cultivars in which the wild species is evident, not belonging to any of the above mentioned cultivar groups", is an original species or a hybrid direct from a species. These original species were God created and tend to be more pest resistant. They are excellent for rock gardens, front of borders, forcing and containers. Many of these variable beauties are suitable for Heirloom gardens, and some naturalize when happy!
If you’re dead set on the more familiar, modern Tulip types, and pests are on your mind, try a product called "Plantskydd". This easy to use ORGANIC formula keeps the 'critters away' from your garden. There’s no bad odor, it’s nontoxic, there are no synthetic additives, and it’s not harmful to animals or the environment yet the critters don't like it! The powder easily dissolves in water so the repellent can be sprayed on plants or directly onto the Tulip bulbs to deter deer, rabbits and other ground critters.
Growing Your Own Tulips
The mania and obsession over tulips might seem silly to us now, but it’s easy to see how people got so swept up in these charming flowers hundred of years ago. It’s no wonder we still want to have some in our yards. Thankfully, they come at prices that are quite a bit below the real estate market these days!
To get the best out of spring blooming, here are our tips for the best tulip growing:
- Planting: Plant your bulb around the time of your first hard frost in late fall. For most people that means the best time is late October to Early November, but it depends a lot on local climate. Dig a hole about 4 times as deep as the bulb’s size, and plant the bulb with the pointy end up. Cover with soil, pat in gently, and water deeply.
- Sunshine: Your tulip will thrive in full sun.
- Soil: Tulips hate being damp or in standing water. Till your soil to keep it well-draining, and consider mixing in compost to almost any soil type to help with drainage as well as feeding.
- Water: Tulip bulbs are sensitive to their water conditions - they don’t like being left with wet feet, as it could easily cause rot. While planting them in soil with good drainage is key, you can help by only watering after they’ve started emerging. If rain hasn’t watered them, one quarter inch of rain or irrigation weekly should do the trick.
New Tulips to Love
We’re as much of a fan of the classic cup-shaped 3 petal varieties as anyone else, but there are also many exciting new things happening in the tulip world! We offer lots of new colors, shapes, and sizes so that we have a perfect tulip for anyone and any garden. Some of the new tulips that we are most excited about include:
- Suncatcher - This tulip’s bright red and yellow colors make it look like a flame growing right out of your garden! We think it would have been a major hit during Tulipmania. It has a traditional cup shape and blooms in mid-spring. This fiery delight will dazzle your garden at a moderate height of 13-18".
- Bastia - This is another yellow and red stunner, but it blooms with a delightfully unexpected twist. Packed with dozens of petals, each one has fringed edges, almost like confetti. These party-ready petals bloom in mid to late spring, and stand at medium height.
- Moonblush - The tulip has beautiful yellow and orange pointed petals. As the flower matures, it’ll change to a rosy pink! This chameleon color changer blooms in mid to late spring, and will grow to medium height.
- Lizzy - These miniature tulip stars look almost identical to red lilies. Their pointed petals open wide to show their centers. These lovely lily look-alikes will bloom in mid-spring. They are a great choice for containers, as they are a more diminutive 7-12" tall.
- Portofino - While these tulips might have a more traditional shape, their color is anything but ordinary. The cream shades of the petals are streaked with rose flames that are a delight in the garden in late spring. Proud and showy, these stunning tulips will stand an impressive 19-24” tall.
Tulips are old staples of the gardening world, but they have been far from boring since our first obsession with them. There must be something particularly special about these flowers that they have us fascinated and excited for century after century. They are not only easy to grow, but a delight to enjoy, adding rewarding color and cheer to our gardens. To see more new tulips, visit our website for our online tulip selection today!
View our complete selection of bulbs online:
Order Online from Brent & Becky's today!
Questions: (804) 693-3966
Toll-free Ordering: (877) 661-2852