Tulips - Tulips, Flower of Passion

Red roses are often associated with passion. But they're not the only flower that can inspire great love.

Centuries ago tulips were unknown in Europe. They rested quietly in remote regions of Central and Western Asia near present-day Turkey, Kazakhstan and others. Enterprising traders, overcome by the flower's beauty, strived mightily to import them to Europe, eventually bring them to The Netherlands. Tulipmania soon followed as bulbs were traded there in a frenzy like gold, reaching undreamed of prices.

Today, the professional tulip flower market is calmer. But tulip gardeners enjoy the same kind of passion for these flowers. Such unremarkable sounding categories as Single Early, Mid-Season and Double Late specify the time of year the blossoms arrive. But the divisions don't do justice to how diligently the gardeners will work to make sure they arrive in full glory.

Soil preparation, careful potting and proper watering and feeding are much easier in the case of tulips than many other flowers much more fussy. But gardeners will nonetheless take special care to prune them properly, then dig them up and plant them at the right times. They may even store them in a refrigerator for months to ensure their favorite flowers come back again.

In the areas of disease and pest management, too, tulips are easy to care for relative to many other more delicate plants. But tulip gardeners will still make sure to wash off aphids, dust bulbs and lay down sand around the stalks to keep off slugs. Many a weekend will be spent building an impenetrable fence to keep rabbits and deer at bay.

They may even go to the length of studying some basic tulip botany in order to learn exactly what makes a tulip tick. That's always a good way, they reason, to optimize their growth and reproduction. True, true. Gardeners are very wise, you see.

Some enthusiasts will even buy greenhouses to protect their precious tulips. That helps supply the plants with ample sun, carefully measured water and to keep conditions dry the way tulips like them.

And why, one may ask, do they go to all this trouble?

Because, like those zealous traders of centuries ago, they recognize that tulips are valuable. Valuable, not necessarily in the economic sense, though bulbs do sometimes sell for a premium, but in other ways. In short, anyone with eyes will agree, tulips are stunning.

Available in a dozen primary colors and hundreds of combinations they can be used to decorate any garden or home. With a much greater variety of shapes than typical images would suggest, they can be the perfect addition to the most creative floral design.

It's been said that even mean people like flowers. If so, they must like tulips a little better than others. The reason is simple. No one can see a tulip and not smile a little bit. And, even if you're not a 17th century Dutchman, surely that's worth getting a little excited about.