As far back as I can remember, tulips have been my favorite flowers.
Courtesy of Barnsley Gardens
Everything about them is intriguing and beautiful—the tightly closed buds that bob on bowed stems; how they spring seemingly on cue from the thawing earth where they’ve been resting all winter long; the wave-like pattern a bank of tulips creates, undulating as one towards the sun; and, even as they wilt, the still-lovely shapes that form as their stems give way to gravity and their petals curl back like opened arms. Mike Dash, in his book Tulipomania, shares this quote:
“The tulip, the French horticulturalist Monstereul wrote, was supreme among flowers in the same way that humans were lords of the animals, diamonds eclipsed all other precious stones, and the sun ruled the stars.”
Since I began to work at flower magazine, I’ve met other varieties—Parrot, French, fringed—that have awed me anew at this simple flower’s beguiling appearance and solidified my love.
I agree with the Persian poets, and others, that the red tulip symbolizes love, deep and passionate, eternal. One look down into a fiery red tulip with its brilliant ring of yellow-gold surrounding a bottomless black center and you can see why the Dutch went mad for this flower.
Frenchman Sir John Chardin, in his “Travels in Persia” written in the 17th century, said it most poetically: “When a young man presents one to his mistress, he wants her to understand by the general color of the flower that he is on fire with her beauty, and by the black base of it that his heart is burnt to a coal.”