These Tulips were photographed in the award winning Abbey House Gardens at Malmesbury, now open to the public for the 2015 season. Tulips were once worth more than their weight in gold and fortunes were won and lost over the value of tulip bulbs.

Originally these beautiful flowers were from central asia and gradually spread westwards. They were first grown by the Turks over 1,000 years ago. The ancestors of our garden tulip thrived in inhospitable rocky and dusty mountain slopes, hot in summer and very cold in winter. The tulip has appeared in art and design for hundreds of years. By 1559 the tulip was growing in Europe. The first illustration of a tulip by physician Conrad Gesner, who lived in Zurich, was drawn and painted in 1561. Then came ‘Tulipmania’ as it is called.

Early tulip illustration

The Dutch East India Company established in 1602 brought bulbs from the Far East. A thriving industry developed around the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Tulips became popular with royalty, aristocracy and the wealthy. ‘Tulipmania’ was at its height between 1637 – 1639. The market for the most famous, unusual and rare bulbs rose out of control. Some rare bulbs were sold for more than the price of a house. They were sold in the ground by traders and soon the ordinary man took part in a business that seemed to create wealth and prosperity for the tulip bulb traders. There were so few rare bulbs and many were deseased and did not grow. The passion for tulips began to dwindle. The market collapsed causing an economic crisis in the Netherlands which resounded around Europe.

Throughout the 18th century the tulip trade continued in Europe. If you had tulips in your home it was a sign of your standing in society and your wealth. The British imported beautiful vases from the Netherlands. These vases had multiple spouts to display single blooms.  There are some beautiful examples at Dyrham House (National Trust) near Bath.

Britain imported tulips from the Netherlands and France. Between 1750 and 1850 nearly every town in the north of  England held a tulip show. The tulip was becoming a bulb for everyone to cultivate. The modern day tulips are born out of changes, which occurred during the ninteenth century, when mass planting was undertaken instead of the single bloom. The crossing of tulips has created a multitude of beautiful and exotic varieties.

Currently we have our tulip card C215 on special offer. Here are some pictures of my favourite tulips which are flowering in my garden today. I planted them last October.

2nd purple tulip

striped tulips

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