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The Well Behaved Tulip... Or Not!

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Variety of Tulips

This harbinger of Spring has been the object of espionage, wars, plus commodity speculations. Native to the Middle East, its discovery prompted a buying frenzy in Europe during the 16th century. Individual tulip bulbs sold at auctions like gold or silver. Especially sought were the more unusual types that resulted from mutations or plant viruses. Many of the Dutch Masters painted tulips prominently in their mixed bouquet paintings. The more unusual the tulip, the more conversation spurred by the painting.

Some of the different types of tulips are:

  • Single – six petals
  • Double – appearing like a mini-peony
  • Parrot – multi-colored ruffled edges
  • Lily flowered – pointed petals
  • Fringed – serrated petal edges
  • French – long stems and larger blooms

The main personality trait of tulips is their transitory nature – they move around and they increase in length. Since the flowers are geotropic (gravity-directed) and phototropic (light-directed), they can change their angle on you overnight. Your careful placement of the flower in an arrangement can look completely different the next day. Also, their stems continue to stretch out after they’ve been cut from the plant (those are some powerful hormones!). Wiring the stems is no solution to this rebellious habit, so just roll with it! Here at the shop, we usually cut the stems a little shorter before arranging them, knowing that they will stretch out anyway.

Extending Flower Life

Sometimes tulips get a bad reputation for not lasting very long. However, there are a few steps you can take to prolong your enjoyment of them. When the stems emerge from the tulip bulb that is down in the soil, it often brings soil particles up with it. These particles are trapped in their leaves, so remove these leaves and rinse the stems underwater. Make a fresh cut off the stem ends and place them in cool water that has flower food mixed in. The cooler you can keep the tulips, the longer they will last. I even place the vase of flowers in my refrigerator overnight, and then bring them out again in the morning. Fresh water and a daily snip off the stems keep them around longer.

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