Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants

From the E-Newsletter: September 2006

Botanical Tulips
Jewels of the Spring Garden

A Brief History of the Tulip: Once upon a time no one in the western world had ever heard of a tulip. The Turks knew all about them and grew them as early as 1000 AD. So, unbeknownst to us, across the wilds of central and western Asia and in Turkish gardens about 100 species of exceptional little bulbs would emerge from their winter dormancy every spring to sparkle with their vibrant, beguiling colours.

Then in and around the late 16th century tulips arrived in Europe. They soon became de rigeur and a sign of status in households both rich and poor. Botanists began to hybridize them creating more and more exciting forms. By late 1636 and early 1637 'Tulipmania' was at its peak in Holland. The bulbs were so popular that the most desirable varieties could cost more than a house in Amsterdam at the time! The tulip craze lead to a huge speculative market in tulips, one in which ordinary men clammered to participate because of the vast amounts of money being made. They sold their businesses, family houses, farm animals, home furnishings and dowries in order to buy bulbs that they had never seen. Eventually, supply increased and the price of tulips plummeted. The "Tulip Crash" sent many people into bankruptcy. Others lost all of their savings. All because of the tulip. The Dutch government then introduced special trading restrictions in order to avoid further fits of uncontrollable plant lust on the part of its population.

Today tulips are one of the most beloved of flowers and one of the world's major commercial flower crops, both for cut flowers and horticulture.

Mini Botanical Tulips: Before the Dutch got to them, before there were Darwin tulips, Triumph tulips, parrot tulips and bouquet tulips, fringed and lily-flowering tulips, peony-types and viridifloras, French and Kaufmanniana tulips and all of the other large, bold and colourful hybrids there were the species -- those small, beguiling denizens of Asia with an allure and beauty all their own.

Botanical tulips are what tulips used to look like and still look like in the wild. They are smaller in bulb size, height and flower size than your standard spring tulips but they are just as colourful and perhaps a little bit more sophisticated looking more like a sparkling jewel than a big brash boisterous flower.

Botanical tulips also offer something that the big hybrid tulips don't: STAYING POWER. Whereas the hybrids will last for a single year, maybe two, the botanical tulips are perennial. They will return year after year and will usually multiply with each passing season. Consequently, they are great for naturalizing. They also work well at the front of the border and in pots.

This year at Phoenix we are pleased to offer 20 different species and varieties of botanical tulips. We hope you'll be inspired to try some in your garden. Here is this year's list:

T. batalini 'Bright Gem'
T. chrysantha
T. 'Honky Tonk'
T. kaufmania 'Waterlily'
T. 'Lilac Wonder'
T. 'Little Beauty'
T. 'Little Princess'
T. 'Peppermint Stick'
T. praestans 'Tubergen Variety'
T. praestans 'Unicum'
T. pulchella 'Eastern Star'
T. saxatilis
T. turkestanica
T. tarda

T. clusiana 'Lady Jane'
T. clusiana 'Tinka'
T. humilis
T. humilis
'Persian Pearls'
T. polychroma
T. 'Red Hunter'


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