What do windmills, wooden shoes, pea soup, and tulips all have in common? Why, the Dutch of course. The Netherlands host one of the most beautiful festivals of spring, The Tulip Festival. Imagine roaming through millions of brightly colored, perfectly formed tulips. The festival was created to promote this national treasure and lasts for two weeks beginning the last week of April.
The one day everybody is out and about is on Bulb Sunday. The Sunday right in the middle of the two weeks is the biggest day for the festival with contests and flower sales.
Although tulips are a national symbol for the Dutch, they actually originated in central Asia and the Near East. The Turks were cultivating tulips as early as 1,000 AD. In their native setting, tulips grow in high elevations in the mountains covered with a blanket of snow. It’s curious that tulips thrive in Holland where it’s flat, at sea level, and the winters are extremely wet. The tulips do so well because the Dutch devised a clever winter drainage system for the soil that keeps the bulbs in a constant comfortable environment.
How did they get the name tulip?
One theory is that the tulip resembles the turban worn in the Middle East. Turban was written as toliban, when translated into Latin it became tulipa.
Tulips were first introduced to the Dutch in 1593 by botanist Carolus Clusius. Clusius was the head botanist of the botanical garden or “hortus” at the University of Leiden. However, Clusius was not a sharing sort of man and refused vehemently to give or even sell bulbs to interested individuals. However, some people knew that these bulbs would be a profitable investment, and so, late one night a group of these “entrepreneurs” paid an unexpected visit to the garden and helped themselves to some bulbs.
Tulips became a status symbol and the wealthy and upper middle class bought them like crazy. Bulbs were highly expensive as much $1500 in today’s market (1999). Tulipomania began (1634-1637), a term used to describe a period in history when tulip crazed individuals invested huge amounts of money in tulip bulbs. In 1634, a collector in the Netherlands paid 1,000 pounds of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, 12 sheep, a bed, and a suit of clothes for a single bulb of the Viceroy tulip.
Striped tulips were favored over solid colors, the same is true today. Striped tulips were actually infected with a virus and are not allowed to be cultivated today. However, you can still buy beautiful variegated and striped tulips thanks to selective breeding. These plants are completely healthy.
Today, tulips are the major flower crop in Holland. Each year approximately 3-billion bulbs are produced. Two-thirds are exported and one-third remains in Holland. The United States is one of the top importers.
Tulip Festivals are held in many places in the United States and Canada including Albany, New York; Ottawa, Ontario; Holland, Michigan; Orange City, Iowa; Pella, Iowa; Mount Vernon, Washington; and Woodburn, Oregon.
Classification of tulips:
Common name: Tulip
- Single early tulips: single-flowered, short stem, early-flowering
- Double early tulips: double-flowered, short stem, early-flowering
- Triumph tulips: single-flowered, medium stem, mid-season flowers
- Single late tulips: single-flowered, long stem, late-flowering, includes tulips from the former Darwin and Cottage groups
- Darwin hybrid tulips: single-flowered, long stem, mid-season flowers
- Lily-flowered tulips: single-flowered, mid-season or late flowers, flowers have pointed, curled-back petals, stem length varies
- Parrot tulips: single-flowered, late flowers, fringed, curled and twisted petals, stem length varies
- Double late tulips: double-flowered, late flowers, long stem
- Rembrandt tulips: broken flower color, striped or marked, virus infected, not commercial available only
- Multiflowered tulips: Multiple flower on one stem
- Fringed tulips: Single-flowered, mid-season or late flowers, petals edged with crystalline fringes variable length stems
- Viridiflora tulips: single-flowered, late flowers, petal contain some green, variable length stem
- Kaufmanniana tulips: resembles T. kaufmanniana, very early-flowers,flower with a multicolored base that opens completely
- Fosteriana tulips: resembles T. fosteriana, early flowers, very broad leaves, sometimes mottled or striped, large elongated flower
- Greigii tulips: resembles T. greigii, mottled or striped foliage, leaves spread out and bend downward
- Other species: this class consists of all other species and their and hybrids