Thursday, May 15, 2008

Broken tulips

This post repeats one I made this morning on the Scottish Rock Garden Club Forum. The topic of the old virus infected tulips had come up, and one forum contributor expressed disbelief that anyone would pay, and pay well, for diseased tulip bulbs.

Let me try to explain.

The short answer is that there appears to be no substitute for the real thing. What are currently sold as “Rembrandt tulips” here in the US are at best crude imitations of the fine old broken tulips and do not remotely approach their rare, sophisticated beauty; particularly is this true of the best of the bizarre tulips which are my personal favorites. The modern Rembrandt tulips I have seen are as plastic child’s toys compared to the aged Morocco leather of the old bizarre tulips.

To be sure, the growing of virus infected tulips is a guilty pleasure: most of us who grow them know better and should probably not grow them. But they are like a drug: once you have succumbed to their peculiar charms, you are hooked for life. These are tulips to be admired individually in the hand, in the cozy, warm comfort of familiar domestic surroundings, as if one were living in a Vermeer painting. Perhaps the glass you hold in your other hand will contain a libation of similar muted, dark hues, layered character and ancient history. Savor each slowly, as their quality deserves. You will look at other tulips as the worldly man looks at the country bumpkin, and perhaps make comments about the rude good health of these everyday tulips. I’m not saying this is right or admirable, I’m just saying that this is what often happens.
I gladly gave my innocence to these tulips when I was a teenager, and I’ve never regretted it.
I’ve learned to live with the guilt.

That's 'Insulinde' (or 'Insulinda') in the image above.

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