Tulip Gardens and Their Significance

Tulip Gardens of the Netherlands

Tulip gardens have enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe, especially in the Netherlands, since the fifteen hundreds. The tulip, introduced to Europe in middle of the 16th century from the Ottoman Empire, experienced a strong growth in popularity in the United Provinces (now the Netherlands), boosted by competition between members of the upper classes for possession of the rarest tulips.

Competition escalated until prices reached very high levels, making the growth of tulips a very lucrative business for many farmers. Traders and merchants dedicating their efforts to tulips and tulip gardens were able to earn very high incomes, with some estimates as high as six thousand florins a month. The average annual income at the time was one hundred and fifty florins, meaning that anyone succeeding in the tulip trade was wealthy indeed.

Tulip cultivation in the United Provinces is thought to have started in 1593, when Charles de L’Ecluse first bred tulips able to tolerate the harsher conditions of the Low Countries from bulbs sent to him from Turkey by Ogier de Busbecq. The flower rapidly became a coveted luxury item and a status symbol. Special breeds were given exotic names or named after Dutch naval admirals.

Tulip gardens were featured in practically every location of prominence. Royal families, nobility and other members of the upper class would all plant tulip gardens to emphasize their wealth and importance. Most often they would include expensive or rare breeds that the average citizen would be unable to afford as an added message about how significant they were (or believed themselves to be).

In the early sixteen hundreds, a single bulb of a famous tulip variety could cost as much as a thousand florins. Tulips were also exchanged for land, valuable livestock, and even houses. In a way, tulips became a sort of living currency that is rather unique to Dutch history.

The Downfall of the Tulip Market

Some traders sold tulip bulbs that had only just been planted or those they intended to plant (in effect, tulip futures contracts). This phenomenon was dubbed “windhandel”, or wind trade, and took place mostly in the taverns of small towns using a slate system to indicate bid prices. A state edict from 1610 made that trade illegal by refusing to enforce the contracts, but the legislation failed to curtail the activity.

In February 1637 tulip traders could no longer get inflated prices for their bulbs, and they began to sell en-masse. Many people began to suspect that the demand for tulips could not last, eventually resulting in a spreading panic. Some investors were left holding contracts to purchase tulips at prices now ten times greater than those on the open market, while others found themselves in possession of bulbs now worth a fraction of the price they had paid.

Tulip Gardens of Today

The Netherlands maintain a tradition of growing vast and elaborate tulip gardens. In fact, tulip gardens, including the Keukenhof tulip gardens in Lisse are maintained as popular tourist destinations. A trip to Holland is not complete without taking time to visit one of the many beautiful tulip gardens located throughout the country.

An interesting tradition exists between the Netherlands and Canada resulting from the Second World War. In thanks for Canada’s large role in liberating the Dutch from oppressive German occupation, the government ships a large number of tulip bulbs to Canada on a yearly basis. The majority of these are planted in tulip gardens around and near the parliament buildings in Ottawa.

Growing Your Own Tulip Gardens

Growing tulips can be very appealing to many people. They are some of the earliest flowers to appear in the spring time, often being viewed as heralds of winter’s end by many. Along with crocuses, daffodils and other early plants, specially-designed tulip gardens allow you to enjoy colorful flowers very early in the year when many other plants have yet to bud or even begin sprouting.

This can set your yard apart from others in your neighborhood, making you the envy of neighbors and friends alike. You’ll also find that the presence of an early-year garden allows your family to relax outside during a time when most people are still hiding indoors.

When gardening with the intent of creating tulip gardens, you need to plant the hardy bulbs in the autumn previous to the spring you wish them to bloom in. The bulbs are very hardy and can survive very low temperatures. In fact, they tend to require at least one frost to initiate the growth cycle.

You can enjoy your own taste of the Netherlands with beautifully-grown tulip gardens around your home, making it a far more relaxing place to live. If you have a desire to see more or to acquire extensive information about tulip gardens, taking a trip to Holland itself is a great idea to consider.

Copyright (c) 2008 Brant Florist

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