Tulip Fever, Can you pick just one?

am recovering from a fever. Tulip Fever. Seduced by their charms and captivated by their colors, petals, fringes, and the brief burst of beauty heralding the arrival of spring, I despair from the longing to possess these flowers in my garden. 

Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival

May is Tulip Festival time in Holland, MI, and I was there with my sister and my husband, Rich, to immerse ourselves in the blooms. Tulips are grown throughout the town; in the parks, on the waterfront, on Windmill Island, and at Veldheer Tulip Farm.

The first tulips were delicate wild plants found centuries ago in central Asia.

Giant Orange Sunset

Today we have the Giant Orange Sunset (6” cups)  variety. In the ensuing years, tulip lovers dedicated their lives to breeding, hybridizing, and trialing new varieties to bring us the beauty we see today. Tulips have a fan following worldwide, and tulips may be the world’s favorite flower.

Name your colors

Holland MI, was settled by Dutch immigrants in the mid-1800’s. The boggy lakeside land seemed very familiar to the settlers and the community has since maintained its Dutch connections, especially with tulips. We wandered through mass displays of spring splendor, each one spectacular for the variety of colors and shapes. A tall grandfather, walking with his tiny grandson through Windmill Gardens tulip display was prompting him to name the colors of the tulips. Red, orange, and yellow are quickly identified, but the fun ended with the striped, ruffled, variegated, and blushing varieties.

Colors! Varigated Foliage, Streaks of Rembrandt

And why not, as even I struggled to name the colors. I can name the purple with white stripes, the blushing ivory with a pink stripe, apricots, gold, and spring green splotches on white petals; these are in my color vocabulary but far beyond the little boy. 

Fit for a princess

Some varieties are so vivid they glow, imitating flames. Some are translucent in the morning light and would surely glow in the moonlight. There are varieties named for ice cream, whipped cream, and Princess Irene. The bewitching colors stop me mid-step, jaw dropped and drooling as I stare at these wonders. A bed of pinkish, fuchsia glowing blooms was indescribable until a fellow admirer pronounced them as cerise.

Glowing Cerise tulips

I quickly googled the word and found a swatch of color matching what I struggled to describe. I learned a new color word.

There is a vocabulary for tulips to help me name my favorites. Rembrandt refers to the distinctly streaked varieties reminiscent of those painted by the Dutch masters.

Parrot variety twists and imitates bird feathers.

Parrot tulips are fringed, twisted, and multi-colored, resembling bird wings.

Varieties, Traditional cup variety, peony variety, lily fringed, and lily with sharp tips. I think this is correct.

Lily varieties have the crisp tips on their petals opening wide rather than the curved cups of so many types. Double varieties of tulips come in many colors, and for the first time, I saw a variety of Peony Tulips with ruffles of petals, quite like the peonies blooming later in spring.

It can take ten years to create a new variety of tulip, and in the hundreds of years of tulipmania, thanks to others with tulip fever we are now dazzled with fringes, streaks, blends, and edges in multiple colors. There is now a variety with multiple blooms on one stem!

Four tulips on one stem

I must travel to see tulips since my Arizona garden will never have four months of cold soil temperatures needed to grow them. Traveling only cures me temporarily of this tulip fever. I walked through the tulip display gardens struggling to pick my favorites: perhaps I’m lucky I can’t grow them. I don’t have to choose!  But in the fall, when the bulb catalogs arrive, I could send some to my sister! And I will make travel plans to see more tulips. It is always worth the trip and the lingering fever.

Can you pick a favorite?

15 thoughts on “Tulip Fever, Can you pick just one?”

  1. I love them all! I need to get to Holland, Michigan to see them! I didn’t realize until this post about them growing there in such profusion!

  2. Thanks for the tulip trip (no pun intended)!
    And a new (to me), color – cerise
    I look forward each month to your sharing the beauty in gardens around the world

  3. Beautiful pictures! Thank you, Linda.
    Coincidentally, the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (Chanhassen, MN) is now having a special exhibit on…tulips! I believe they planted over 40,000 bulbs.

  4. Thank you, Linda, AGAIN-for such a dazzling display of gorgeous tulips. Haven’t been to Holland Mi, but Descanso
    Gardens has had some beautiful beds of tulips, as of course in Northern Washington state.

  5. I think cerise and chartreuse would
    be a beautiful combination. I love tulips. Have you ever visited LA Conner,
    Washington with their fields of tulips and daffodils?

  6. Here in the UK we too have been overwhelmed with tulip fever with gardens private or open to everyone a mass of tulips of every colour, variety and cerise too. My favourite is Viridiflora ‘Spring Green’.
    Thank you Linda for another wonderful journey – and please never recover from tulip fever.

    1. I’m hoping to get to Floriade in Amsterdam this summer. Are you going? I hope your garden is growing in good weather.

      1. Sadly regret that oversea travel is now beyond me ! – however still active in our garden and visiting Nymans, Wisley and other beautiful local N.T. gardens. Hopefully your journeys will bring you back to the UK – and if so that once again we could share our joy of gardening. In the meantime – take care and keep well
        Jan in Surrey

  7. Wonderful, Linda, to learn that our traveling gardener continues to wander and wonder. It is a joy to go with you albeit vicariously.

    I guess tulips come in every color but puce!

    And didn’t I read that a few hundred years ago “tulip mania” reached such a high point that one bulb sold for hundreds of dollars? That’s especially stunning when you consider that where I live the squirrels love to eat them . . . .

  8. Linda I lived in Holland, MI for 20 years. I grew 400 tulips in our yard. I learned that you need to plant them at least 8 ” in the ground. I also learned that if you sprinkle the ‘worst smelling foot powder’ on top of the bulb the squirrels were not as apt to dig up the bulbs. Then I filled the hole. Last I again sprinkled the foot powder on top of the dirt. If it rained you might have to add more powder. Ottawa Beach Macatawa flowed past our place. Learned to do tulip designs with the help of the Holland Garden Club designers. Wonderful memories.

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