Tulips are bulbous plants in the lily family. Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (present-dayTurkey), tulips were imported into Holland at the end of the sixteenth century by Carolus Clusius. He initially planted tulips at the Vienna Imperial Botanical Gardens in 1573. After he was appointed director of the Leiden University’s newly established Hortus Botanicus, he planted some of his tulip bulbs here in late 1593. Thus, 1594 is considered the date of the tulip’s first flowering in the Netherlands, despite reports of the cultivation of tulips in private gardens in Antwerp and Amsterdam two or three decades earlier. As the Dutch Golden Age grew, so did this curvaceous and colourful flower and the tulips at Leiden would eventually lead to the tulip industry in the Netherlands.
Carolus Clusius wrote the first major book on tulips in 1592, and is largely responsible for the spread of tulip bulbs in the final years of the sixteenth century. While a faculty member in the school of medicine at the University of Leiden, Clusius planted both a teaching garden and his private garden with tulips. They became so popular that his garden was raided and bulbs stolen on a regular basis.
Between 1634 and 1637, the enthusiasm for the new flowers triggered a speculative frenzy now known as the”Tulip Mania” (tulipomania). Tulip bulbs became so expensive that they were treated as a form of currency, or rather, as futures. Around this time, the ceramic tulipiere was devised for the display of cut flowers stem by stem. Vases and bouquets, usually including tulips, often appeared in Dutch still-life painting. To this day, tulips are associated with the Netherlands, and the cultivated forms of the tulip are often called “Dutch tulips.” The Netherlands have the world’s largest permanent display of tulips at the Keukenhof.
Tulips in Holland and abroad
Today, Holland is still known for its tulips and other flowers, often being affectionately called the “flower shop of the world.” Tulips are cultivated in great fields of beautiful color, and tulip festivals abound throughout the country in the spring. The Dutch people took their love of tulips abroad when they settled, and tulips and tulip festivals are now found in New York (originally New Amsterdam) and Holland, Michigan, where the connection to their Dutch roots is very strong.