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Plant of the Week

Posted - Oct. 6, 2001 at 12:26 p.m.



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Tulips, like many other bulbs are native to Turkey and other Mediterranean climates. As such they are naturally programmed to grow during the winter, bloom in the spring and then spend the hot, dry summer in a dormant resting stage. To keep the bulbs from growing at the wrong season they have built into them a mandatory chilling requirement.

Because of this mandatory requirement they mist be planted in the fall. Typically they spend the winter out of doors and Mother Nature cools them. If you want to force them to bloom in the winter, buy the bulbs now and let stay in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. We will have more information on forcing bulbs in a future article.

Tulips come in all sizes, many shapes and a wide variety of colors ranging from near black purple to pure white flowers. The color that is missing is true blue.

In Holland in the early 1600s, tulip buying and selling was at a frenzy. This maniacal desire for these flowers was astounding.

One early 17th century bill of sale recorded the following transaction for a single tulip bulb: Two loads of wheat; four loads of rye; four fat oxen; eight fat swine; twelve fat sheep; two hogsheads of wine; four barrels of beer; two barrels of butter; 1,000 pounds of cheese; a marriage bed with linens; and a sizeable wagon to haul it all away. The equivalent "cash" value of all that merchandise totaled 3,000 guilders ($1,500), which at that time was the price of a large house!

The highest price paid for tulips was in Turkey. The Turks were the original tulip-lovers. It was from Turkey that the Dutch acquired their first bulbs in the late 1500s. By the early 1700s, the Turks were importing bulbs from Holland. Sultan Ahmed III was the first to do so, but his love of tulips proved to be a fatal attraction. In 1730 Sultan Ahmed was brought to trial for crimes including "having spent too much money on the traditional annual tulip festivals." The sentence: beheading.

Fortunately none of the local nurseries I visited wanted any but money. you need not pay the ultimate price for this symbol of beauty in a spring garden. Tulip lovers will find the price of beauty considerably much more reasonable.

Insects are usually not much of a problem for tulips. Occasionally slugs and snails will attack the foliage and the flowers but the insect and the slugs are not very active because the flowers bloom while it is cool.

KSL Greenhouse Tip Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticulturist Utah State University Thanksgiving Point Office

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