University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Early Fall News Article

TIME-TRAVELING TULIPS FOR VERMONT GARDENS

Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

You may be surprised to learn that many of the same elegant flowers that inspired "Tulipmania" in the 1600s, and appeared in paintings of the Dutch Masters at that time, are still available to plant in gardens today.

You can purchase many of these "time-traveling" tulips from garden centers and mail-order catalogs. While some are identical to their ancestors, some are "look-a-likes" that replicate the historical varieties.

The following list was compiled by the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in New York City. All these varieties were introduced in the years between 1593 (when tulips first arrived in Holland) and the year 1750. For something new, why not plant some of these in your garden this fall to enjoy next spring.

Tulip tarda, 1590s. This multi-flowering botanical tulip has chrome yellow petals edged in bright white. The stunning, star-shaped blossoms open late in the season on sturdy six-inch stems. The variety is native to Turkestan and can be used in formal or naturalized plantings.

Rembrandt Tulips, 1610. These are the famous mottled or "broken"-color tulips that launched a frenzy of trading, culminating in the near collapse of the Dutch economy in 1637. The era became known as "Tulipmania."

The tulips were called "Rembrandts," stemming from the abundance of tulips in famous Dutch Master paintings in this era, which was known as the Golden Age of Dutch Painting. Curiously, tulips were not a prominent theme in Rembrandt's own work.

The broken colors in Rembrandt tulips--no two were ever alike--were caused by a plant virus. Today, actual Rembrandt tulips are no longer available (they're illegal), but you can buy one of the Dutch "look-a-like" varieties, a light color tulip with deep red, purple, or oxblood colored stripes or "flames." Some modern day varieties include: "Union Jack," "Cordell Hull," "Shirley," and "Sorbet."

Viridiflora Tulips, 1700. These tulips have feathered green markings and striations on petals of various hues. Twentieth century viridifloras include "Golden Artist" (golden yellow with green stripes); "Groenland" (pale pink with flames and blushes of rose and pale green); and "Spring Green" (creamy white with blush green).

Keizerkroon, 1750. This is a single early tulip that grows to 13 inches tall. It is a distinctive red-edged-in-yellow flower with a nice scent.

Another old time variety that you may want to try was introduced in the early 1800s. It's Tulipa clusiana, a striped variety that's still a favorite today.

Tulipa clusiana, 1802. The original red-and-white striped tulip species (T. clusiana) is no longer commercially available, but you can buy its new identical cousin, T. clusiana "Cynthia" (1959). It's red and light yellow striped with a narrow silhouette that fans out to a star shape when fully open. It's also known as "Peppermint Stick" or "Candlestick" and grows six inches tall.

To learn more about these "time-traveling" tulips, visit your local library or garden center. And don't forget, for blooms next spring, you need to plant now!

 


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