A Turbulent History

Pink Tulip

Tulips caused an economic bubble in Holland in the 16th century.

Tulips originally grew on the wild hillsides of Turkey and were introduced to Europe in the 16th century where they became immensely popular.  The name “tulip” was most likely a Latinized form of the Arabic dulband meaning “turban.” It was said that tulips got their name when Turkish men wore tulips tucked into their turbans, but it’s also said that the tulip looks a little like a turban.

In Holland, tulips became so popular that in the 1630s, the price of one bulb was the equivalent to a small house in little town of Delft where the famous painter Vermeer lived. Due to lots of speculation of the supply of tulips, the bottom eventually fell out of the market in 1637. The government of Holland banned speculation on tulips after many fortunes were lost and the economy collapsed.

The most popular type of tulip bulb produced an attractive striped flower. A famous version of this flower was called the ‘Semper Augustus’ and was white with red stripes. No one knew what caused the “breaking” of the color and since it was rare, it was one of the most expensive bulbs. Later, it was discovered that this was caused by a virus that was spread by aphids.

The Meaning of Tulips

During the Victorian era, the study of “Floriography” was taken seriously by many a young lady. This was the study of the meaning of flowers. Tulips have various meanings: fame, charity, the perfect lover, consuming love, happy years and memory. To give a red tulip meant to “declare your love.” Pink tulips signify imagination, dreaminess. Variegated (or striped) tulips mean beautiful eyes. White tulips signify lost love and yellow tulips signify hopeless love. You can learn more about the meaning of flowers from a great book called The Meaning of Flowers by Gretchen Scoble and Ann Field.

Buying and Caring for Cut Tulips

  • Buy the blooms when they are still closed but you can see the color on the outside of the bloom. Make sure the blooms are not too far above the tips of the greenery. The taller the blooms are above the greenery, the longer it’s been since they were cut from the growing fields.
  • When you bring the flowers home, condition them. Mix flower food and cool water and fill the vase with enough water to cover the first 4 inches of the stems.
  • Cut the white ends off of the stems and pace in a tall vase so the stems are supported inside the vase. Alternately, you can gently wrap the stems in butcher paper to support and straighten the stems before putting them in the vase.
  • Be sure to cut the stems right before placing them in water. Don’t delay!
  • Put in a cool dark place for an hour or two. NOTE: Tulips are attracted to light, so they will turn in the direction of the light and that is why you want to condition them in the dark.
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