Tiptoe through the tulips with us

Dutch tulip fields nearby the Keukenhof in the Netherlands

Tulip fields nearby the famed Keukenhof display garden, south of Amsterdam

Why buy roses when you can have tulips? I love wild roses and garden roses, but the kind sold in stores leave me wanting … for tulips. So when you’re shopping for your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, consider the tulip, the best Dutch treat on the planet. I’ve long admired tulips, but now that I’m in a half-Dutch household, it’s our official flower.

Flowers are cut for preservation of the tulip bulbs

Most Dutch tulip farmers cut the blooms in order to later export the bulbs

Here’s a short history. The tulip was originally a wild flower, growing in Central Asia, and first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1000 AD. It was introduced in Western Europe and the Netherlands in the 17th century by Carolus Clusius, a biologist from Vienna. He became director of the Hortus Botanicusthe oldest botanical garden in Europe, one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, at the University of Leiden, where, incidentally, I studied Dutch in 2005. (Notice I didn’t say I learned it.) His plantings marked the beginning of the incredible tulip bulb fields still famous in Holland today. If you’ve never seen them, add that to your life list.

200902_21_tulips

This year's Valentine's tulips

In case you were wondering, the word tulip comes from the Turkish word for turban. The Dutch word is tulp and the plural is tulpen. (Wow, I remembered!)

Wessel and I bought our Valentine’s tulips today. Orange, the Dutch national color. What color did you get?

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6 Responses to “Tiptoe through the tulips with us”

  1. karel Says:

    Of course it’s wonderful to see the tulips (and other flowers) at the Keukenhof-exposition and on the fields of the neighbour growers.
    But the real thing is (at least when your not living in an appartment) to have them in your own garden. Just buy a bunch in september/october.
    Plant them in your garden. Not too late (december?), because they like to enjoy the wintercold (imagin !) And at last, when spring comes, they are your companion to welcome the new season. Your own tulips.Try it.

  2. Wessel Says:

    I am somewhat reluctant to make this comment but unfortunately Leiden does not have the oldest botanical garden of Europe. In fact it’s the 6th oldest botanical garden established in 1590. Four gardens in Northern Italy (Pisa [1544], Padua [1545], Florence [1545], Bologna [1567]) and one in Spain (Valencia [1567]) preceded Leiden. The garden in Padua (Padova) is the oldest which remains to this day on its original site. Wikipedia says: “The Hortus Botanicus of Leiden is the oldest botanical garden of the Netherlands, and one of the oldest in the world.” That last statement is less pretentious but still impressive.

  3. Tulips: The Blooming Truth Says:

    [...] Tiptoe Through the Tulips With Us The tulip was originally a wild flower, growing in Central Asia, and first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1000 AD. It was introduced in Western Europe and the Netherlands in the 17th century by Carolus Clusius. [...]

  4. Wessel Says:

    National Geographic Traveler is featuring 50 “Drives of a Lifetime” in its September 2009 issue:
    http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/drives

    The Flower Route in The Netherlands is listed as one of the 11 non-US drives:
    http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/drives/netherlands-flower.html

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