Last spring I had the opportunity to visit Holland when the tulips were blooming. It was beautiful! My journey began in Vienna. My husband gave me a single tulip. With the tulip along for the ride, we started our journey. The first stop was in western Austria. Not a tulip in sight but beautiful primroses.
The story of tulips is quite interesting. According to tulip history, the flowers grew wild in Central Asia and were first cultivated around 1,000 AD by the Turkish people. They were introduced in Vienna and beyond in the 1500s. Historians say tulips became popular in part because of their flamboyant appearance, and intense and varied colors, such as the yellow and white flame-like streaks on bright red, yellow or purple flowers. In the 1630s in the Netherlands, tulip bulb prices rose rapidly as demand increased and speculators entered the market. This is sometimes referred to as “tulip mania” or “tulip fever.” The bubble burst in February 1637, but that was not the end of the connection between tulips and the Netherlands. In 2014, the country exported 2 billion tulips. The Netherlands grows numerous other flowers, and accounts for about 60% of the world’s supply of flower bulbs.
Our second stop was in the Netherlands to see these beautiful flowers. Unfortunately, it was cold, rainy and a little too early to see many fields of tulips in bloom. No loss, Keukenhof provided a wonderful display and I still had my lone tulip.
Back in the U.S., it was a treat to arrive home to a kaleidoscope of color in my own backyard. In the South, growing tulips can be challenging, but not impossible. I find that if I chill the bulbs before planting they produce beautiful blooms. I think of them as annuals, but sometimes they produce for longer than one year. For me tulips are worth the effort.
To learn more about growing tulips in the United States, contact Cooperative Extension or go to https://extension.org/. Other resources:
- State-by-state gardening
- The Georgia Gardener Walter Reeves on tulips
- Spring-flowering bulbs in the south – Clemson Cooperative Extension
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