My Victorian Garden: Gardening with Rare & Unusual Antique Heirloom Spring Tulip Bulbs
Gardening with Rare and Unusual Perennial Tulips
This page will introduce you to some of the most exotic and rare antique and heirloom tulips and their (true) story of beauty, intrigue and high stakes finance that puts today's global banking, government, and stock market shenanigans to shame.
Why Rare and Unusual Antique Heirloom tulips?
Although our house (an 1880 Victorian) and its garden are still very much a (lot of) work in progress, we knew we wanted to create a period perennial garden to go with the house.
We have spent a lot of time researching and finding appropriate plants for each season and our climate. So even though the beds are not exactly laid out according to plan yet, we started choosing and planting perennials appropriate for our Victorian garden.
While not every plant we grow is pre-1900, we have tried to stick to those as close to what was available and in use circa 1880 or that the original owners may have added over the first years they lived here.
We are in zone 5, so you may not be able to grow all of these, but if you can, there is a lot to be said for gardening with plants that have been around so long. Many of these older varieties are hardier than newer hybrids. Some are fragrant and none are fussy. Heirloom tulips may cost a little more but they are well worth the investment, especially since heirloom tulips increase and come up every year while most new varieties will not.
As evidenced by the opulent tulip-filled still life paintings by the Dutch masters, tulip frenzy began in the 1630s in Europe when the coveted wild flowers were imported from Turkey.
The most popular were the elaborately colored and striped "broken" tulips which were feathered and flamed by benign viruses.
Tulips came to America with the earliest settlers. In the 1700s and early 1800s, tulips were grown as a mix of individual specimens.
In the mid to late 1800s, Victorians massed brilliant early blooming tulips in elaborate beds in their lawns. By the early 20th century, in part as a reaction to what was considered the excesses of the Victorian era, taller late-blooming pastel tulips came into production and favor and many of the earlier varieties were lost forever.
The Dutch Golden Age of Painting (And Tulips)
A trio of Baroque paintings from the Dutch Golden Age featuring flamboyant tulips (Left to Right): Christoffel van den Berghe’s (c. 1590- 1645) Tulips, Roses, Narcissi, Daffodils, Crocuses, an Iris, a Poppy and Other Flowers in a Gilt Mounted Porcelain Vase on a Ledge, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573 – 1621), Still Life with Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase, and Maria van Oosterwijck (1630-1693) Flower Still Life.
About "Broken" Tulips
The broken in broken tulips refers to the coloring. There is nothing damaged about broken tulips, although the contrasting coloration is caused by a virus. The virus does not harm the bulbs. However, because it can be spread by aphids and other insects, broken tulips should not be grown near other tulips or lilies.
Broken tulips should not be confused with modern "Rembrandt" tulips, which have been created by breeding and are not true broken tulips. Once you've grown the originals you will see that they do not compare.
Lost Tulips from the Past
Shown above, left to right: Tulip cultivee Plate 375 from ‘Plantes de la France, decrites et peintes d'apres Nature', by Jean Henri Jaume Sainte-Hilaire (1772-1845). Tulips hand colored engraving from ‘Hotus Nitidissimis Omnem Per Annum Superbiens Floribus’ by Christoph J. Trew, and Color engraving of a Tulip from life (Plate 142) by P.J Redouté from 'Choix des plus belle fleurs' published in 1827.
Fascinating Tales of Tulipmania
Intrigued by Tulipmania? Learn more about this incredible-but-true story of greed, deceit, beauty, and politics in this highly rated, researched, and readable volume by Anne Goldgar.
Tulipa Gloria Nigrorum: A "Broken" Tulip from 1837
Also known as Violet Ponceau and La Victorieuse, Gloria Nigrorum (Black Glory) is one of the oldest surviving Bijbloemen (purple on white) broken tulips.
It is a striking deep violet on creamy white.
16" tall for zones 4 through 7.
Source of bulbs: Old House Gardens
Columbine opens purple on white which quickly becomes a soft pretty shade of lavender. This Bijbloemen tulip dates to 1920 and bears the name of Harlequin's sweetheart -- and a sweetheart of a tulip it surely is! A demure 16 inches, Columbine will flourish in zones 4-7.
Heirloom Tulip Bulbs are True Perennials: Out of one, many
For More Beautiful Blooms Year After Year
Bulbs use a lot of energy to bloom and feeding them is necessary to keep them coming back better than ever and multiplying. Dr. Earth Organic 1 Bulb Food is a 100 percent natural and organic formula with Alaskan fish bone meal, valley-grown alfalfa meal, colloidal rock phosphate, feather meal, naturally mined potassium sulfate and, as they like to say, "blended with 100-Percent pure love." It loosens and improves soil structure and is pet and people safe.
Other Types of Broken Tulips
In addition to the Bijbloemen tulips shown above, there are Roses (Red and Pink on White) and Bizarres (brown or red on yellow).
Within each of those three categories are three subcategories: Breeder, the original solid color, Feather, which describes tulips lightly marked with the darker color, and Flame, which refers to more distinct and dramatic high contrast markings.
A Wild Parrot Tulip from 1750: Markgraaf van Baden
This extremely rare early parrot tulip known as the "Mad Count Baden" is historically one of the most popular and important tulips. The folks at Old House Gardens have compared it to "molten lava cascading down a tropical mountainside." We can't think of a more apt description for the swirling flames of Markgraaf van Baden. 16-18" Tall for zone 4-7.
Wacky Weather Wreaks Havoc on Wild and Crazy Tulips - Spring 2012 Garden Battered by Fluctuating Weather Extremes
After an unusually warm winter and early spring temperatures that felt more like summer, we were hit by a snowstorm on April 23rd followed by a warm spell broken by gale force winds and rain with a severe hailstorm at the beginnng of May. We've got some battle-weary tulips amongst the survivors.
Temperatures were back to near 80+ degrees (fahrenheit) again within a couple of days. Still repairing the latest damage as much as possible. Took the above photos the morning after the hailstorm when I literally peeled these blossoms off the ground.
Tulipa Cafe Brun: Another Early but Not-So-Early Parrot Tulip
Dating to 1840, this flamboyantly gorgeous tulip is inexplicably named Cafe Brun, which translates to Brown Coffee. Looking more like a dragon's fiery breath, this tulip grows in zones 5 through 7 and is 12 to 14 inches tall. Ours bloom in mid-May.
The Granddaddy of Wild & Crazy Tulips
If you think tulips Markgraff van Baden, Perfecta, and Cafe le Brun are phenomenal, take a look at the botanical illustration of Tulipa Monstrosa Rubra Maior !
This is a lithograph by Johann Wilhelm Weinmann (1683-1741) of an actual tulip.
As his name indicates, Weinmann was a German artist and his work is further evidence of the European (and soon world-wide) epidemiology of Tulip Mania.
Tulipa Gloria Solis (Glory of the Sun) Dates to 1854
'Glory of the Sun' was one of the most popular tulips between 1860 and the mid-1900s. It then fell out of fashion and became endangered, almost completely disappearing. It is still a hard-to-find rare tulip. About a foot high, early blooming, and rated for zones 5 through 7.
Tulip Protea 'Peony Gold' - First Bloom Spring 2012
Although this beauty (above and on right) looks like a trendy new designer hybrid, it is actually an antique heirloom tulip from the 1700s height of tulipmania.
Extremely rare, heirloom tulip Peony Gold changes color from pale yellow green to yellow and frequently followed by gold brushed with red.
Blooms early (mid-April) for us most years. Hardy to Zone 4.
Purple Crown Tulip
A Very Rare Flower from 1785
Purperkroon (Purple Crown) is a double early blooming tulip that is one of the very few from the 1700s available at all.
Also known as The Moor, Purperkroon is a regal rich purple-red standing about 12 inches tall. It will do nicely in zones 5-7.
Tulipa Willem van Oranje
This exhuberant tulip (shown above and to the left) was named for the founder of the Dutch Republic in honor of his 400th birthday.
Hardy in zones 3 thru 7, Tulipa Willem van Oranje is just under 12 inches tall and an exhuberant blend of copper tones with peach, orange, rose, and gold.
An impressionist painter's dream!
Tulipa Lac van Rijn: An Extremely Rare Tulip from 1620
This rare survivor from tulipmania was one of the most expensive tulips in the 17th century and commanded prices equivalent to thousands of dollars today. Although it still commands a higher price as tulip bulbs go, if you are lucky enough to find one, you can expect to pay less than $15. Not bad for an almost 400 year old antique of such beauty! Lac van Rijn (pronounced Lock von Rhine) is a single early tulip that is a good naturalizer, 14 inches tall, zones 4-7.
Even Rarer: General Ney Tulip - From 1837
Named after one of Napoleon's generals, this is an early single tulip that is a most unusual rich mahogany or cordovan color that changes tone with the light, sometimes glowing with more of a red undertone and sometimes a tad more purple. Difficult to explain and even more difficult to capture in a photo. Grows to about 16-18 inches. Zone 4-7.
We Were Honored to Have Our Tulips Chosen as Page of the Day March 20, 2012
Robin Svedi wrote:
Today as we say hello to spring, we invite you to stop and smell the tulips -- but not just any tulips.
At My Victorian Garden: Gardening with Rare and Unusual Antique Heirloom Spring Tulip Bulbs, Chazz shows us several delightfully rare tulips from his own garden where he is attempting to recreate the look of the land during the late Victorian era:
"We have tried to stick to those as close to what was available and in use circa 1880 or that the original owners may have added over the first years they lived here."
At the lens, in addition to viewing Chazz's own gorgeous tulip photos, you'll also learn about the history of these perennial favorites and why having "broken" tulips in your garden is a good thing...
Best of all, Chazz promises to update the lens as more of his flowers bloom.
What a great way to keep an online garden journal!
Thank you, Robin, for such a wonderful introduction!
Don't Miss Our Other Victorian Garden Pages
We'll be adding to this page as our garden grows and more flowers bloom so bookmark this page and check back to see what's new!
We're So Glad You Stopped By!
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© 2011 Chazz