Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Gardening Column with Paul Andruss – Tulipmania


Paul Andruss wanted to make sure that tulips in all their glory, received a showcase and so has written an extra column this month to do just that.

Tulipmania by Paul Andruss

(E-Florist)

Everyone knows tulips so there is not much to say about them. However would a little bit of their history make you appreciate them a bit more?

Tulips are native to the southern steppes bordering the Black and Caspian Seas from South Russia to Northern Iran and Afghanistan, then east to Turkmenistan and the Hindu Kush until their habitat of blistering dry summers and deeply cold winters is disrupted by Himalayan Plateau and the desert beyond. These steppes were the home of the Turkic nomads, who were not the same, but very similar to the horsemen of Mongolia. One such tribe were the Seljuk Turks.

A thousand years ago the Seljuks migrated into the inhospitable Anatolian high plateau now modern Turkey. The Byzantine Emperor welcomed them. He used the warlike tribe as allies to provide a buffer against the Persian Empire to the east, Rome’s traditional enemy. He was quite happy to let the Seljuks settle on the almost deserted plateau because it was deemed so inhospitable, due to its extremes of blistering cold winters and baking hot summers. The Seljuks, being from the equally harsh Steppes, found it a home from home and thrived.

The plateau became their Sultanate of Rum (Greek for Roman). Due to political upheavals the Seljuk rulers were ousted by the Ottoman Turks who conquered the Persia Empire, their Muslim neighbours, and in 1450 the biggest prize of all, the city of Constantinople. By this time Constantinople was also called Istanpolis, simply meaning The City – for there was no other like her. The name later became Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire lasted from 1300 to the end of World War 1 (1918) when Turkey became a secular Republic under Attaturk.

Tulips were first cultivated in Persia. Paradise is the Persian word for garden. The Seljuks introduced tulips to Turkey from newly conquered Persia. Islamic historians say in the 1570s the sultan ordered 350,000 bulbs imported from the provinces to beautify his palace gardens in Istanbul. In the 1600s the tulip became an iconic design on Iznik Ceramic Tiles decorating the new imperial pleasure palace called the Top-Kapi (Ball-Gate) after its ornate circular-arched doorways.

Tulip Design on Iznik tile (Yurdan)

It is claimed the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador first brought tulips to Europe in the 1550s but other sources claim seeing them all over Europe shortly after this period so they were probably introduced before. In 1590 the first book on tulips was produced in the Netherlands by a botanist who had introduced them from Vienna, the closest city to the Ottoman border. Tulips quickly became highly desirable luxury items.

A tulip, known as “the Viceroy” (viseroij), displayed in the 1637 Dutch catalog Verzameling van een Meenigte Tulipaanen. Its bulb was offered for sale between 3,000 and 4,200 guilders (florins) depending on size. A skilled crafts-worker at the time earned about 300 guilders a year. (Wikipedia)

Tulips were split into groups: those of single colours (red, yellow, or white) and multicolours with white streaks on a red or pink purple or lilac flower. The most coveted and expensive were ‘Bizarres’ with yellow or white streaks on a red, brown or purple background.

(Dutch Bulbs)

Tulips grown from seed take between 7 and 12 years to flower. Until they do (due to genetic variation) you don’t know what you are getting. After a tulip flowers the main bulb dies, leaving a rosette of bulblets, clones of the original parent plant, which then take years to mature.

It was noted tulips grown from seed did not always produce these highly desirable streaks, but those cultivated from the bulblets of those with streaks did. The problem was these bulblets often died before they matured.

In those days gardeners knew nothing about viruses. Today we know the tulip mosaic virus causes the streaks… and a virus is not a good thing to be running rampant through your very expensive tulip collection.

Because of the long years waiting for seeds develop or bulblets to mature, there was a speculative frenzy in the 1600s called Tulip Mania. People bought immature bulbs knowing it they developed a spectacular flower they could sell the side bulblets for extraordinary prices as breeding stock to nurserymen.

We have the same thing today. In the modern financial world it is called ‘futures’… For example you buy next year’s wheat harvest at a reduced price hoping by the time next year’s harvest comes the price will have gone up and you will make a profit. However what you have bought currently does not exist, so if the harvest fails…

People bought the tiny new bulblets of marvellously streaked tulips, knowing as each year passed, and they got more mature, they could sell them on profitably. But if the bulb died or was not infected by the virus then the gamble failed.

Semper Augustus Tulip (Wikipedia)

In 1630 one Semper Augustus Tulip bulb sold for the modern equivalent of €28,750, or £25,500 or $34,500. A sale of 40 bulbs came in at €1,150,000, £1,022,000 or $1,200,000.
In 1637 when dealers did not show up at a bulb auction the madness was over. The bubble burst and tulips lost around 99.99% of their value. Investors were ruined.

Today breeding streaked tulips remains the holy grail of growers. It has been painstaking achieved by managing selection and cross breeding from the seeds of non-infected bulbs.
Parks and gardens dig up tulip bulbs after flowering and throw them away, because they don’t flower as well in following years. But I confess until writing this article I have never knew why. It is because, as I said, the main bulb dies and you have to wait for the new bulblets to mature.

Gardeners say dig up your tulip bulbs after they flower and dry them out. Last year I neither threw them away of dug them up, but left them in pots over summer under cover in the dry. So far the results have been a mixed bag. The tulips have survived but some have not flowered, these are obviously the immature ones. Oh well, there is always next year!

©Paul Andruss 2018

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Gardening Column with Paul Andruss – Light up your life with brilliant late spring bulbs


Light up your life with brilliant late spring bulbs

From March onwards bulb flowers get bigger and more spectacular.

Trillium (American Meadows)

Shade and damp loving Trilliums grow in woodland from North American to East Asia. They come in shades of red and white three-petal flowers. They are expensive to buy as they grow slowly. You are better buying a couple of adult plants rather than seeds. In fact I recommend that for all bulbs and tubers as they take years to get going.

(Parker bulbs)

Snakehead Lilies or Fritilleria like damp places too. These elegant nodding bells have Checker-board patterns in brown and maroon reminiscent of snake skin and are sometimes pure white. The good news is once they like a place they will grow like weeds and they are cheap to buy.

(Fotheringill)

A relative, which is well worth growing, is Fritilleria Imperialis. They can grow over 3 feet high. The two varieties have either a ring of 3 inch long orange or yellow bells under a green leaf rosette cap. The bulbs are large and so expensive to buy. Plant them on their side on an inch thick bed of gravel to stop them rotting. If water gets into the crown they will rot. They like a lot of water and feeding when growing and will die back down to nothing by mid-summer, when they need to be kept as dry as possible.

(Parkers bulbs)

Pagoda lilies or Dog tooth Violet are so called because the bulb looks like a dog’s canine tooth. Although they look delicate they are pretty trouble free. Depending on species the flowers come in yellow, white or pink. Like all bulbs they die back in summer to nothing.
The small pink flower in the picture is called Corydalis. Its feathery fern-like foliage comes up in early spring followed by profuse spires of small trumpet like flowers in bright yellow, pink, sky blue or mauve (depending on the plant). These small bulbs love damp, are trouble free, spread easily and will die back in summer. They are stars in their own right but certainly set off other spring plants.

Anemone De Cean with Anemone Blanda inset (American Meadows)

Anemone or the wind flower come in two main types. De Cean (named after the French town) and Coronaria are colourful open buttercup type flowers (anemones are part of the buttercup family). In damp Wales they can be a bit difficult. Blanda is one of my favourites and easy to grow. They look like blue or white daisies- they are tough and will carpet any area under trees over the years.

(Parkersbulbs)

Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) is a relative to the anemone and very beautiful. I remember falling in love with it after seeing it growing along the roadsides in Turkey. It is called the Pasque Flower because it comes up around Easter and has a purple colour, which is traditionally the colour associated with Christ’s passion and crucifixion.

Camassia (American Meadows)

Camassia are a tough family of bulbs, easy to grow, gorgeous to look at. They take any amount of wet and cold coming up year after year. They grow in moist meadows in North America and naturalise very easily. They come in a variety of sizes and colours, as long as you like blue (Which fortunately I do). I have a dwarf pale-blue about 8 inches high and deep violet and mid-blue forms both almost 2 foot high. They also come in white, but I am not keen as white flowers tend to get hammered by the spring rains here and go mushy.

(RHS)

Peruvian Squill are large bulbs that are tough as old boots and have spectacular large blue flowers. They are also called Portuguese Squill.

One legend has it that the bulbs flowered on the Scilly Isles after being washed up after a ship from Peru was shipwrecked. The truth is not quite so exotic. The first ship to bring the bulbs to England in 1773 was from Portugal and called The Peru. The plants scientific name was a mistake of the ship’s name for the country. It’s mistaken but popular place of origin (South America) also led it to be called the Cuban Lily or the Peruvian Hyacinth.

I bought 2 bulbs last year ready to flower for £5.00 in late April. Unfortunately transplanting caused the flower shoots to wilt and the plants died back. This year in mid-January they were about 6 inches high and had been coming up since December with no protection in the garden. Unfortunately the tender leaves got blasted by severe cold weather blast in March. The leaves of one bulb wilted but is now recovering and the other is doing fine.

Alliums and Nectarscordium (Parkers Bulbs)

Allium & Nectarscordium are related to onions, they produce huge balls of individual small bell flowers in early summer. They come in shades of purple, white and blue and some of the more spectacular ones look like firework explosions in the garden. In early spring they produce a large amount of strappy green limp leaves. Late spring they begin to flower. By this point the leaves are dying and unlike daffodils the leaves can be cut off without injuring the plant to leave the naked flower stems.

Nectarscordium, or Bulgarian Allium, have delicate hanging umbels of pale yellow flowers with deep maroon throats. They are very tough, but dislike wet feet in summer when they are resting.

Happy planting!

©Paul Andruss 2018

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Gardening Column Rewind – Introduction by Paul Andruss.


Since some of you were not here a year ago when we featured the Gardening Column, we thought we would repeat the series. You will discover that not only is Paul Andruss is an exceptional writer, he also has a very great knowledge of plants.

About the Gardening Column

Bill & Ben the Flowerpot Men (with little weed) BBC-1952

I was flattered when Sally offered me the Gardening writing position. Then I got a nervous thinking what I could usefully say. Gardening advice columns tend to be local.

Smorgasbord has a huge readership spanning the world north to south and east to west.
Readers and contributors are not only based close to home across the UK and Eire, and within mainland Europe, like Germany, but are as far flung as Australia, Thailand and South Africa, to say nothing of Canada and the entire width of the United States. How do you cater for all?

To give an example, if you transplant a cherry tree from England to Singapore, instead of deciduous tree producing blossom followed by lush fruit it will become evergreen and never flower. It is not for nothing gardeners the world over say it’s all about getting the right plant in the right place.
As Sally can attest from when she lived in Spain (hills outside Madrid), and I know from Turkey (both areas are roughly the same latitude), winter is short and mild. although Turkey gets cold Russian winds from the Steppes often bringing snow down to Istanbul. In Bodrum, the cold winter winds would see off most of the garden that was thriving a week before.

For us winter lasted from the last week in December to the middle of February, when the hillsides were alive with spring flowers. The big dead time was the height of summer. It was so hot and dry most foreign plants, no matter how much water they had, simply gave up the ghost.

English Garden plants that flowered all summer long in the UK would be flowering within weeks, live for a month and die. By November their seeds would have grown and be flowering until the winter winds cut them down.

This so called Mediterranean climate is found in California, South African Cape, Chile and the Southern Coast of Australia. Yet even in the Mediterranean, no two Mediterranean climates are the same. If you look at North America, California’s Mediterranean climate is not reflected in other states lying between the same latitudes such as Virginia, South Carolina Utah, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona and Kentucky, just to name a few.

So how do you know what to grow and how to extend the variety of plants in your garden?
Here is a table of plant hardiness zones based on minimum winter temperatures.

But as you probably guessed that is only half the story. For example some Mediterranean, South Africa and California plants are quite happy with the temperatures in a cold greenhouse, almost 700 foot up a hill in Wales: although none survive outside due to the wet. Winters here are mild, reaching 11C the past few days (or 52F) mostly staying above freezing and only betting below -5C around (21F) once or twice a year.

But my plants suffer from lack of sunlight in the short dull days; too little or too much water or sitting in cold damp soil, even though they have thrived in the same soil all summer long. Others rot when the damp greenhouse warms up during the day and a cold dew forms on the leaves at night.

So given I’ve not put you off gardening for life… when I talk about plants think about your local conditions. See what available in local market and garden centres.

And if you decide to go a bit more specialist there is plenty of information on the internet.

For example I grow some South African plants as annuals, either grown from seed or bought as plug plants from the garden centre each year because I can’t keep them alive over winter and I would rather use the space for plants I can nurture through.

Speaking to friends, I find they are scared to buy plants because they don’t know what they are. Hopefully this column will help you feel more comfortable with a wider variety of plants, so that when you see them for sale you will recognise them and want to give them a try. So let me tell you about different and unusual varieties of plants to brighten your garden and home. Shine some light on their romance and history so they become memorable.

And as for finding the right plant for the right place, plant families are pretty broad and many plants look similar, so if one particular plant won’t thrive where you are, there are bound to be alternatives.

©Paul Andruss 2018 Images.

I hope you are as excited as I am to be at the receiving end of Paul’s extensive knowledge and it is a timely reminder for me to get going on my recently created borders to the new lawn.

Finn Mac Cool

Find out more about Paul Andruss, his books and previous posts: HERE

Connect to Paul on social media.

Blog: http://www.paul-andruss.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks
Google+  https://plus.google.com/s/+jackhughesbooks