So I just received a delivery from Petal Post and to my delight it contained fringed (or frilled) tulips.  Be still my heart!


Like many people, I have a thing for tulips – of the images I have made, two of my favourites are tulips – one a fringed tulip and one a double tulip.  From a photographic perspective, they never disappoint – especially the interesting ones like fringed, parrot, variegated and double tulips.  A total wonder of nature. 


The history of tulips in society is also pretty wondrous as it is so storied and exciting. Not surprisingly it is one of the most widely discussed and documented flowers in history.  It even spawned its own name ‘tulipomania’.  


Much of the history of tulips centres around Europe, especially the Netherlands, but in actuality, tulips are actually native to central Asia and Turkey, only finding their way to Europe in the 16th century.



Though present in art since the 12th century, the first wave of tulipomania occurred in Turkey during the Ottoman empire, where they became a cultivated flower primarily for the enjoyment of the Sultan.  (Its name comes from the Persian word for turban).  This celebrity continued for several more centuries in Turkey, culminating in what became known as the ‘Age of the Tulips’ in the early 18th Century.  Throughout this time, tulips became the ultimate sign of wealth, with their cultivation and sale (and purchase) strictly governed.  It reached a point, under the rule of Sultan Ahmed III, that certain crimes relating to the sale of tulips were punishable by exile.  All this fuss over a flower!


Around the same time that the Age of the Tulips was happening over in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and surrounds, the Dutch had just started to get excited about these beautiful blooms and had begun experimentation around their cultivation.  Tulips had been introduced to Europe as seeds sent to the Royal Medicinal Gardens in Prague in the mid 16th century. Not long after, the overseer of these gardens, Clusius, (along with his impressive collection of tulips) settled in The Netherlands, and here he planted what is believed to be the first tulip garden in Holland.  Clusius, ever protective of his beloved blooms, refused to share or sell his tulips, which only heightened the already growing interest – to the point where people would resort to stealing the flowers from his garden.   It didn’t take long for their popularity (and availability) to spread and, as in Turkey, the wealthy took a particular interest in them.


Next thing you know, tulip bulbs hit the stock market (in a manner of speaking.  People began widely speculating on tulip bulbs and they became to be more than just a symbol of wealth but also a form of currency.  Not surprisingly, this infatuation spread beyond the wealthy and tulips became an obsession throughout The Netherlands.  This obsession lead to rise in artworks featuring tulips – paintings, ceramics, tapestries - you name it. The desire for anything tulip related seemed insatiable.  This time, in which the price of tulip bulbs reached such dizzying heights and the speculation on tulip bulbs was so frenzied, became known as ‘tulipomania’ and ‘tulip fever’.  It was a strong contrast against the religious conservatism of the time which condemned the obsession with this ‘worldly good’.   At this point, a single bulb (especially if it was a rare hybridised specimen) could be sold for around the same price as a house in Amsterdam.


But we know from history, that all good things must come to an end and towards the mid 17th century, tulip prices tumbled, marking the end of the tulip fever.  However, while the market for bulbs softened, the flowers themselves of course lost none of their beauty.  There would continue to be peaks and troughs in the market for tulips over the ensuing centuries and other parts of Europe went on to have their own bouts of tulip fever at different times, but never would tulips reach the heady heights they once did. On a commercial level, however, tulips became established as a primary resource for The Netherlands, which is what has driven the association between them.  Most people when they think of Holland, associate it with tulips (probably closely followed by clogs, windmills and dams, and, perhaps, some of the more salacious offerings of Amsterdam).


Fast forward to 2019 and tulips are still prized and loved and they are found all over the world, in part because they travelled with the Dutch as they migrated.  Now there is also a wider variety of forms available.  Interestingly, some of these variations resulted from certain viruses that caused frilled petals and intense colouring, but which are now cultivated and are no longer a result of disease!  Tulips symbolise ‘perfect love’ (a meaning particularly associated with the red tulip), and, perhaps for this reason as well as their beauty, they are a common feature in wedding bouquets. 


And caring for tulips is easy!  Check out this post from Petal Post to have a read of the best ways to care for your cut tulips and keep them from drooping!