“Everyone and everything has a price,” a less than respectable Boss once told me.
If there is a grain of truth in that phrase, I’ve also noticed none of my finance friends would dare mention being a ‘banker’ in public, in these post recession times, it’s become a dirty word. But we all look to the peaks and troughs of the global financial markets for our own gain. Who’d have thought it would be the humble tulip, which crashed the Dutch economy virtually overnight in the 17th century. ‘Tulipmania,’ is widely regarded as the first economic bubble.
Rewind to 1637, the Dutch Golden Age and the price of a tulip bulb is trading hands for ten times a craftsmen’s annual income. Amsterdam is the epicentre of the trading world, guilders pour into the deep pockets of wealthy merchants. The beauty of Semper Augustus tulip, a flamed, streaked exotic variation on the plain coloured tulip, has fired people’s imagination. It becomes the most coveted bulb variety, rare and owing to a virus which gives it the characteristic ‘breaks’ or ‘flames’ of colour, difficult to grow.
Contracts for the bulbs started signing in the dormant times of the growing calendar, fuelling the escalating demand. Such was the popularity of the virus infected variety, bulbs weren’t even changing hands, the whole market became speculative and collapsed abruptly when buyers refused to attend a bulb auction one day. Fortunes were lost as easily as they were made. There’s a thought for you, next time you pick up a bunch with your shopping.
My parrot tulips (in the animated gif) needed much propping up after a long detour from Covent garden market to Lewisham and not enough water. But I’ve decided that tulips are best left to do their magical thing; growing, bending, drooping, misbehaving without interference. Don’t cut them down too much or strip them of their leaves, just find the right vase and watch over 7 – 10 days.
If you own a tulipiere, all the better, the arranging is done for you. I love the simplicity of Frances Palmer’s, which references Fulham Pottery without detracting from the tulip’s beauty. They really are the most entertaining of all the cut flowers and a joy to look after.
Robert van der Hilst is a landscape architect and product designer whose love of tulips has influenced every aspect of his work. See his work here.