Monday, November 3, 2014

Tulips!

I planted two varieties of tulip this fall, Tulipa acuminata and Tulipa 'Elegans Rubra', both historic lily-flowered - or even dagger-petaled - varieties of uncertain origin. They are supposedly about as close to the Istanbul tulips popular in the Ottoman Empire during the 18th century as any tulips available today. Maybe they are even survivors from that very age, as postulated in the Old House Gardens catalog. Based on the pictures available online, both do look quite a bit like some of the tulips featured in an Ottoman florilegium known as the Lale Mecmuası or "Tulip Album". 'Rubra Elegans', for instance, seems to come quite close to this beauty:


It would be wonderful if by some happy accident some of these historic varieties, all presumed lost, were in fact recovered somewhere. If they were half as pretty in real life as their painted representations than as far as I am concerned they would really give most modern tulip cultivars a run for their money.

7 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Yes, very. I feel as though old varieties are usually are more elegant, more delicate and over-the-top somehow. The breeding efforts of the last decades seem to produce things that are ever shorter, bushier, stumpier, more garishly colored and more devoid of fragrance.

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    2. For all plants that is, not just for tulips.

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  2. Often the original plant is better than the cultivar or hybrid. I remember the carnations of my childhood which smelt of cloves. The carnations available now are bigger and last longer, but have no perfume. Best of luck with your tulips!

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    1. Very true; that is part of the reason why I am so fascinated with historic and heirloom varieties of many plants.

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  3. I always thought these elegant pictures of tulips in the middle eastern/west Asian context were artistic renditions and not what they truly were like. thank you for dispelling that notion.

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    1. I think there still might have been some exaggeration in at least some of the pictures, but at least Tulipa acuminata definitely proves that those shapes are possible.

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