The History of Tulips

Pizza isn’t Italian, French horns aren’t French and the Dutch tulip ain’t Dutch! Not Dutch?  Absolutely not — (Although my Dutch heritage and pride wished they were….)  The present day hybrid tulip bulbs we plant, or the cut flower tulips we put in vases, are descendants of the wild tulip that once grew in Persia (now Iran), northern India, Afghanistan and particularly Turkey.

The tulip as we know it now, became popular in Turkey during the 16th century, the time of Sultan Suleiman I and the Ottoman Empire.  At the Sultan’s wishes, the wild tulip was domesticated and cultivated for its symmetrical cup shape and bold colors, and he made it the official flower of his Court.  He had grand tulip gardens in Constantinople as well as at his summer home in Adrianople.  I’d say he had a public obsession with this flower!  Even today in Turkey’s Istanbul, an annual Tulip festival is held, although somewhat of a relic of the past as there are no tulips present!

So how did these famous flowers make it to Holland?  In 1593 the first tulip bulbs arrived in Holland via Austria and the new flowers brought quite a sensation in the country.  Today Holland is still known for breeding, growing and selling tulip flowers and bulbs all over the world.

Every spring in Holland Keukenhof (meaning Kitchen Garden) creates a fabulous show garden of all the newly hybridized flower bulbs.  Besides tulips, there are also hyacinths, crocus, narcissus, lilies and many other spring flowering bulbs.  This annual event attracts millions of visitors from all over the world.

About Fleur

Fleur is a retired freelance Garden Writer, currently exploring Baja flora and living in Punta Banda. You may reach her at [email protected]

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