Tulip - Encyclopedia

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TULIP (Tulipa), a genus of bulbous herbs belonging to the Liliaceae. The species are found wild along the northern shores of the Mediterranean, in the Levant, Armenia, Caucasus, Northern Africa, Persia, and sporadically across North and Central Asia to Japan. The cup-shaped flowers have six regular segments in two rows, as many free stamens, and a three-celled ovary with a sessile stigma, which ripens into a leathery many-seeded capsule. The species are numerous, and are distinguished one from another by the scales of the bulb being woolly or smooth on the inner surface, by the character of the flower-stalks, by the filaments being hairy or otherwise, and by other characters. Owing to the great beauty of the flowers they have been favourites in European gardens for two or three centuries, and have been crossed and recrossed till it has become almost impossible to refer the plants to their original types. The early flowering "Van Thol" tulips, the segments of which are mostly scarlet with yellow edges, are derived from T. suaveolens, a native of the Caspian region. T. Gesneriana, a native of Armenia and central Russia, is the origin of some of the later flowering varieties. T. pubescens, which is probably a hybrid between the two species just named, is the source of some of the early flowering kinds known as Pottebakker, &c. T. oculus-solis and T. Clusiana are lovely species, natives of southern Europe, and T. silvestris, with elegant yellow flowers, is a doubtful native of England. More recently, owing to the exertions of Russian naturalists, a large number of new species have been discovered in Turkestan, and introduced into Europe. Some of these are very beautiful, and render it probable that by intercrossing with the older species still further difficulties will be presented in the way of identification. These difficulties are further enhanced by the fact that, quite apart from any cross-breeding, the plants, when subjected to cultivation, vary so greatly in the course of two or three years from the original species from which they are directly descended that their parentage is scarcely recognizable. This innate power of variation has enabled the florist to obtain, and ultimately to "fix," so many remarkable varieties. At the present day tulips of all kinds are much more extensively grown than at any previous period. Not only are millions of bulbs cultivated in Holland for export every year, but thousands are now also grown for the same purpose in the Channel Islands, more particularly in Guernsey. Of late years tulips have become very popular in America, and an extensive trade is now done between the U.S.A. and Europe. The enormous prices once given for rare varieties of tulip bulbs no longer obtain, though, even now, two and three guineas are asked for special bulbs. It must, how ever, be remembered that the "tulipomania" of the 17th century was really a form of gambling, in which admiration of the flower and interest in its culture were very secondary matters. Tulips were introduced into the Low Countries in the 16th century from Constantinople and the Levant.

The florists' varieties of tulips, which have sprung from Tulipa Gesneriana, are arranged in separate classes named bizarres, bybloemens and roses, according to their colour and marking. Tulips are readily raised from seeds, and the seedlings when they first flower (after about 7 years cultivation) are of one colour - that is, they are self-coloured. Judged by the florists' rules, they are either good or bad in form, and pure or stained (white or yellow) at the base; the badly formed and stained flowers are thrown away, while the good and pure are grown on, these being known as "breeder" tulips. The breeder bulbs and their offsets may grow on for years producing only self-coloured flowers, but after a time, which is varied and indefinite, some of the progeny "break," that is, produce flowers with the variegation which is so much prized. The flower is then said to be "rectified"; it is a bizarre when it has a yellow ground marked with purple or red, a bybloemen when it has a white ground marked with violet or purple, or a rose when it has a white ground marked with rose colour. One of the most important of the properties of a fine florists' tulip is that the cup should form, when expanded, from half to a third of a hollow ball, the six divisions of the perianth being broad at the ends, and smooth at the edges, so that the divisions may scarcely show on indenture. Another is that the ground colour should be clear and distinct, whether white or yellow. The least stain at the base of the flower, technically called the "bottom," would render a tulip comparatively valueless. What are called "feathered" flowers are those which have an even close feathering, forming an unbroken edging of colour all round, "flamed" flowers being those which have a beam or bold mark down the centre, not reaching to the bottom of the cup.

Tulips flourish in any good garden soil that has been deeply dug or trenched and manured the previous season. To secure perfect drainage and greater warmth a fair quantity of sand or grit should be present. Fresh manure should be avoided, but the remains from an old hot-bed or mushroom bed may be incorporated. The best time to plant is in September and October, the bulbs being buried about 6 in. deep and the same distance apart. The best effects are produced in formal beds by planting the same variety in each, to secure the plants being of the same height and in flower simultaneously. In mixed flower borders, mixed varieties may be planted. After planting the space between the rows of tulips may be planted with such plants as forget-me-nots, wallflowers, silenes, violas, double white arabis, polyanthuses, &c., to obtain beautiful colour combinations in spring.

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Tulips are usually increased by offsets, which most varieties produce in fairly large numbers. These are taken off and sown in drills, like seed. They are usually strong enough to flower the third year from this sowing. Some varieties produce offsets sparingly and must be increased by seed - a slow and uncertain method. New varieties are raised from seed. (The colour variation in the flowers of seedlings is discussed above.) Seeds are sown in. boxes or cold frames, in light sandy soil, and the young plants are allowed to remain undisturbed until the second year. They are then lifted and treated like offsets, being sown thinly in beds out of doors. They usually flower in about the seventh year. The soil in which tulips are propagated should be sandy, free working and thoroughly drained. A warm sheltered position is a necessity.

Cultivation Out of Doors. - Planting is best effected during September, October and early November. It is usual thoroughly to dig and manure the ground in preparation. Holes 6 to 8 in. apart and 5 in. deep are then made with a dibber. Sometimes a little loose earth or sand is put in to the depth of about I in., and the bulbs laid singly thereon, the holes being closed by the dibber and the whole raked over. Valuable varieties are planted at about the same depth, with a trowel, a little sand being placed around them.

Unless seed is required, the young capsules should be removed as. soon as the perianth has withered, to conserve the strength of the bulb. The plants should be left until the leaves begin to wither, unless it becomes necessary to lift them to make way for other plants. When lifted they should be laid thinly in a well shaded, airy spot to, dry. The tops can then be removed and the bulbs sorted and stored thinly in trays in a cool dry place. Rare bulbs may be wrapped singly in tissue paper for storing.

In Pots and Forcing

The early flowering varieties should be potted as early in September as practicable, later batches for succession being potted during October. Pots 5 and 6 in. in diameter are the most convenient. The tops should be covered with z in. of soil, and abort half an inch left for water. The soil should be a light and fairly rich compost, comprising about 2 parts loam, I part decayed manure or horse droppings that have been thoroughly sweetened, I part leaf mould and half a part of sand. Pot firmly, and plunge the pots in several inches of ashes out of doors, to protect the bulbs from frost. As soon as growth commences at the top and a fair amount of roots are formed they may be introduced into gentle heat, in batches according to the need and the amount of stock available. For market a slightly different method is adopted. The bulbs are placed in long shallow boxes, plunged in soil or ashes in the open air, and are later introduced as required into heat in semi-darkness, and are afterwards transferred to benches in the forcing houses where they flower. Bulbs which have been forced are of no further value for that particular purpose. If planted in borders and shrubberies, however, they will continue to bear fairly good blossoms in the open air for several seasons.


The following varieties are among the most useful for bedding and pot culture.




Duc van Thol. .

Various .

6 in.

Adelaine. ... .

Rose Carmine

7 „

Artus. ... .

Dark Scarlet

8 „


Dark Crimson. .. .

7 „

Belle Alliance .

Crimson Scarlet

8 „

Canary Bird.. .

Yellow. ... .

10 -12

Chrysolora.. .


9 „

Cottage Maid. .

Pink and White.. .

12 „

Duchess de Parma. .

Orange Crimson. .

Io „

Gold Finch. .

Golden Yellow. .

12 „

Joost van Vondel. .

Crimson, flaked White. .

9 „

Keisers Kroon.. .

Scarlet and Yellow, superb

flower .

10 „

La Reine.. .

White (when forced) and Pink

9 „

Lac van Rhijn

Rosy Violet

9 „

Ophir d'Or. .. .

Golden Yellow.. .

8 „

Pottebakker.. .

Scarlet, White, Yellow vars. .

12 „

Primrose Queen .

Primrose .

9 „

Proserpina.. .

Rosy Carmine, superb flower .

9 „

Rose Gris de lin. .

White and Pink. .

9 „

Thomas Moore.. .


9 „

White Hawk. .

Pure White

to „

Yellow Prince.. .


8 „




Duc van Thol.. .

Red, edged Yellow.. .

6 in.

Alba Maxima.. .

Pure White

9 „

Couronne d'Or. .

Yellow and Orange. .

9 „

Gloria Solis. .. .

Orange Crimson.. .

9 „

Imperator rubrorum .

Crimson Scarlet

9 „

La Candeur. .. .

Pure White


Leonardo da Vinci. .

Crimson and Gold. .. .

Tournesol. .. .

Scarlet and Yellow.. .

8 „

Early Single Flowering Kinds

Early Double Flowering Kinds: - Late Single Flowering Kinds: - These are tall-growing hardy kinds, suitable for herbaceous borders where they can be left undisturbed. With them may be associated what are now popularly known as "Darwin" tulips, beautiful long-stemmed kinds with self colours, and the "Cottage" or "May-flowering" tulips, all easily grown in ordinary garden soil.





Bouton d'Or

Golden Yellow.

Gesneriana .

Bright Scarlet.

Caledonia .

Orange Scarlet.


Columbus .

Yellow and




Picotee. .


Fulgens. .

Violet Crimson.

The Fawn. .

Dove Colour.

Parrot Tulips

This late flowering group is supposed to be derived from the curious green and yellow striped T. viridiflora. The flowers are mostly heavy and drooping, petals brightly coloured, the edges being curiously notched and waved.





Rubra Major

Dark Red.

Lutea Major .

Yellow, Crimson

and Green.

Mark Graaf .

Yellow, striped

. MonstreRouge



Perfecta. .

Yellow, Scarlet

and Green.

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