Favourite of Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the darling of painters including Rembrandt and one of the most volatile investments of its time, the tulip ranks with the rose and lily in historic significance.
Descended from a wild flower of no particular beauty, tulips were first discovered growing in the mountainous regions of Turkey. Before long the flower's simple beauty was to be seen as an enhancement in Suleiman's imperial garden and was even embroidered on the great man's underwear. But it was in the small country of Holland that 'tulipmania' eventually reached stupendous heights in 1653.
Today, tulips are Holland's hottest property. Hybridizers work in secret developing new varieties ensuring that millions of bulbs and flowers emanate from this country of gardeners. In fact more flowers are sold by Holland each year than by any other country in the world. Generous with their treasure, the Dutch have guaranteed that vast tulip gardens flourish in gardens worldwide in the spring, bringing colour and beauty to many a wintery landscape.
Tulips have not only brought great prosperity to Holland, they have also generated a massive tourist industry. From March through to May garden afficionados come from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe to see the tulip extravaganza that takes place in the bulb fields, in Keukenhof Holland's famous bulb garden, and to witness the flower auctions that move apace in the auction houses of this kingdom of flowers.
Posted by Anne Gordon, 17 August, 2010