"Then comes the Tulip race, where beauty plays Her idle freaks; from family diffused To family, as flies the father dust, The varied colors run; and while they break On the charmed eye, th' exulting florist marks With secret pride the wonders of his hand."
The Tulip is a flower of easy cultivation. The varieties are endless. With the early and late varieties the garden can be made very gay all the month of May.
These flowers became, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the object of a trade for which there is no parallel, and their price rose beyond the precious metals. Many authors have given an account of this trade, some of whom have misrepresented it. One author called it the Tulipomania; at which people laugh, because they believe that the beauty and rarity of the flowers induced florists to give such extravagant prices. But this Tulip trade was a mere gambling commerce, and the Tulips themselves were only nominally its objects, many bargains being daily made, and the roots neither given nor received. In Holland and Belgium the passion for Tulips among the florists became an absolute madness. Many thousand francs have often been given for a single root, and the amount of this article of commerce, in 1637, rose to some millions of francs. At the period of this effervescence, properties of considerable value were given for a single flower, and a memorable monument of this outrageous folly is still exhibited at Lille, in the Tulip Brewery, which, it is said, though valued at 30,000 francs, ($6000,) was given by its proprietor for a single root. At last the Tulip mania became so overpowering that the government of Holland, convinced of the evil effects which might result from it, were obliged to interfere, and to pass laws of great severity against such transactions, limiting the extent of the amount for any one bulb to 200 francs. To this day, a few of the choice and rare varieties are priced at that sum in the Dutch catalogues. During this Tulip fever, a merchant in Holland gave a herring to a sailor who had brought him some goods. The sailor, seeing some valuable Tulip roots lying about, which he considered of little consequence, thinking them to be onions, took some of them unperceived, and ate them with his herring. Through this mistake, the sailor's breakfast cost the merchant a greater sum than if he had treated the Prince of Orange.
Another laughable anecdote is told of an Englishman, who, being in a Dutchman's garden, pulled a couple of Tulips, on which he wished to make some botanical observations, and put them in his pocket; but he was apprehended as a thief, and obliged to pay a considerable sum before he could obtain his liberty. A bed of two hundred and fifty Tulips, of the finest varieties, at the present time, cannot be obtained without, a considerable outlay; and there are few, who have the means or the fancy, who are willing to be at the expense.
Tulips are divided into two classes, early and late blowers; and these are, again, subdivided into other classes.
Early Tulips commence their blooming about the first of May, in company with the Hyacinth, and some of the varieties are very desirable. They are dwarf in their habits. The many distinguished varieties of early Tulip are all produced from the late blowers, which, having tall stems, and much finer colors, engross nearly the whole attention of the cultivators of Tulips. The modern mode of classing the late blowers, by the Dutch florists, is as follows:
"Prime Baguets, from the French word baguette, a rod, or wand. They are very tall, with handsome cups and white bottoms, well broken with fine brown, and all from the same breeder.
Rigaufs Baguets. - This variety is supposed to have received its distinctive appellation from some individual by the name of Rigaut, who was eminent in this branch of floriculture. They are not quite so tall as the former, but have strong stems, and very large, well formed cups, with white bottoms, handsomely broken with rich brown color, and all from the same breeder.
Incomparable Verports. - A particular kind of Bybloemens. Cups very perfect, cherry-red and rose color and white bottoms, well broken with shining brown. Some of these are from $10 to $25 a root.
Bybloemens, or nest flowers, called by the French Flamands. They have white ground, or nearly so, and are beautifully broken with shades of purple and a variety of colors. They are from different breeders.
Bizarres, from the French, odd, or irregular. Ground yel-ow; from different breeders, and broken with a variety of colors.
Paroquets, or Parrot Tulips. - The edges of the petals are fringed, colors brilliant crimson and yellow, with shades of bright green; but still they are held in no sort of esteem among florists."
Double. - These are of various brilliant red, yellow, and mixed colors, but, like many other double flowers, are deemed monsters, and not appreciated by flower fanciers, although they have an elegant appearance, from their upright, tall, and firm stems, and crowns of large, peony-shaped flowers; and, when scattered with the Parrot among the small shrubs and other plants, in the borders of avenues and walks, or planted out in separate beds, they have a pleasing effect.
Breeders are such as have been procured from the seed, and consist of one color, which is red, purple, violet, gray, brown, black, yellow, or some other individual color, without any sort of variation. These are cultivated in a rather poor and dry soil, and become broken or variegated, in from one to twenty years, and produce new varieties; but so uncertain is the prospect of a favorable result, that but few persons are willing to make the experiment, by raising Tulips from seed, as probably not one in a thousand, after so many years of patient cultivation, would exhibit anything remarkable or new. For this reason, a new and superb Tulip commands a high price at the present time in Europe.
When a Tulip has broken, the colors are unchangeable, when properly managed, and are perpetuated from offsets from the parent bulb. Tulips become deteriorated by improper culture, by feeding them too highly with stimulating manures. This causes the colors to run together, and the flower becomes what the florist denominates "foul," and they can only be restored to their former beauty by planting in a pure, loamy soil for a few years.