Tulip (Cultivation Of The). The tulip is a native of Persia, and was first introduced into Europe at Constantinople, where it was, and still is, a great favourite with the worshippers of Allah. In 1554, Auger Gislem Busbec, better known as Busbequis, being at the Porte as ambassador from Ferdinand I., Emperor of Germany, procured some seeds and bulbs, which he transmitted to Vienna, with the remark that " the Turks charged a high price for them." Several amusing stories are related about these bulbs; how they were at first eaten as onions, but found unpalateable ; how they were then made into a conserve with sugar, but their flavour not improved; and how, at last, being thrown out on a manure-heap, as worthless, a few bloomed, revealing the true use of the plant. This was its first introduction into Western Europe.
In the first half of the seventeenth century occurred that remarkable historical episode, the " tulipomania." It commenced in Holland, from thence it spread to France; and, no doubt, would have invaded England if the inhabitants of that country had not been fully engaged with the more sanguinary mania of civil war.
The peculiar habit of the tulip not permitting it to be freely and quickly propagated, is no doubt the reason why some particular varieties have been so highly esteemed. From the time of sowing the seed, five years at least must elapse before the flower appears, and this first bloom is almost invariably a self, or mere ground colour. In this state the plant is termed a breeder; and when in the course of a few years, more or less, the petals become striped and variegated, it is then termed broken.
There are two species of tulips extensively cultivated in America - the earliest of which is the Van Thol. The late-flowering variety is the garden tulip - the T. Gesneriana, the prize flower and tulip par excellence. Our florists divide this species into three classes, viz., roses, byblomens, and bizarres. The roses are marked by crimson, pink, scarlet, or cherry-colour, on a white ground. The byblomens are marked with black, lilac, or purple on a white ground. The bizarres are marked with purple or red, on a yellow ground. These clas?es are still further divided into flamed and feathered. A flamed tulip is one that has a dark-pointed spot, somewhat in shape like the flame of a candle, in the centre of each sepal. Though it has become almost conventional among amateurs and gardeners to speak, and write too, of a tulip's petal, yet the word is a gross botanical misnomer. A tulip has neither corolla nor petal, but merely a calyx of coloured sepals. A feathered tulip has a dark-coloured edge round it, gradually becoming lighter on the margin next the centre of the sepal; the feathering is said to be light, if narrow ; heavy, if broad; and irregular, if its inner edge has a broken outline. In some instances a tulip may be both feathered and flamed.
To display tulips to the best advantage, they must be grown in beds, situated in an open, airy part of the garden. The exact size of a bed is, as the reader will presently see, easily determined by the number of plants it is intended to contain. The required dimensions being marked out, the soil should be removed to the depth of twenty inches; and a layer of sound fresh loam, ten inches thick, placed in the bottom of the excavation. Over the loam must be laid twelve inches in depth of thoroughly rotten two-year-old cow-manure; and over this last, another layer of loam, two inches deep at the sides and three in the centre, thus leaving the surface slightly convex. The bed should be prepared in the beginning of October, so as to allow it to settle before the time of planting, which is from the first to the tenth of November; and at this time the bed will be about two inches higher than the circumjacent walks.
Mr. Groom, of England one of the first tulip-growers in the world, and who, no doubt, possesses the best collection extant - the Dutch having completely lost their pre-eminence in the finer varieties - cultivates these plants in beds of four feet in width. When the bed is ready to receive the bulbs, its surface is brought to an accurate convex curve, by means of a piece of board, in the required form, termed a strike. This being done, the places of each and every bulb are exactly marked by the same implement, which is divided into eight 6paces of six inches each. On the flat side of the strike, at the marks between the spaces, are small staples which receive seven small peg-; these, when the strike is laid across the bed, mark the places for one row of bulbs. From this first row, which is six inches from one end of the bed, six inches are measured at each side, and the strike being again laid over the bed at the termination of these measurements, gives the places of the plants in the next row - the same method being continued till every place is accurately determined. From the foregoing, it will be seen that there are seven bulbs in each row across the bed ; that each bulb is six inches apart, every way from another; and that the side and end ones are six inches from the edge of the bed - the length of the bed depending upon the number of bulbs the grower possesses, or chooses to plant in it; a bed twenty-live feet in length is said to have the most brilliant effect. The places for the bulbs having been thus found, a little clean sand should be sprinkled on each position, the bulb placed on it, and a little very sandy-earth put over, so as to envelope each bulb in a cone. The bed should then be covered with a sound, fresh loam, and the surface smoothed off with the back of the strike, which for this purpose is formed with a curve and shoulders; the former taking in the breadth of the bed, while the latter slides against boards placed at each side; the whole moved onwards, takes off the redundant soil, leaving the surface regularly rounded, the centre being six inches higher than at the sides. The tallest-growing flowers must be placed in the centre; the nearest in size next, and so decreasing in height, the shortest are placed at the sides. The convexity of surface permits the bulbs to be covered with a depth of soil proportionate to the size of the plant. No tulip bulb, however strong the plant may be, should be, covered by more than four inches of soil, measuring from its upper part; nor should it be buried less than two inches, however small or weak it may be.