Some old tulips

Jim McKenney
Wed, 11 Apr 2007 13:01:53 PDT
Last fall I splurged a bit on some of the antique tulips offered by Old
House Gardens. Some of the cultivars obtained (such as Dillenburg and
Keizerskroon) are sorts I grew years ago when they were regularly available
in the trade. Another, Absalon, I last had in the late 1970s or early 1980s
from the old Peter de Jager company. I still have photos of these old
acquisitions, and it will be interesting to compare the newly acquired
stocks when they bloom. 

One new acquisition has helped to reshape my understanding of the so-called
single early tulips: finally, after a lifetime of knowing about the Duc van
Tol (older books spell it Thol) tulips, there is one blooming in the garden.
All that I had read about these did not prepare me for what actually bloomed
in the garden. The word which comes to mind when I look at this is squat. I
don't really mean that in a pejorative sense: the plant is low and broad and
so is the flower. And it has the fragrance still found in some of the single
early tulips. It's easy to see why the single early tulips quickly displaced
the Ducs: the stems of the single earlies are just enough taller and the
flowers are just enough bigger to make them much better suited to garden

Now that I've seen a genuine Duc, I'm better prepared to accept the
supplier's claim that the stocks provided under the name Keizerskroon are
the real thing. I've had tulips under this name in the past on several
occasions. The name persists in catalogs, probably because the genuine
article is the only readily obtained eighteenth century tulip. The new
Keizerskroon is blooming now, and it has a flower shape I had not noticed in
the prior acquisitions: the base of the flower forms a deep bowl - and it's
not a big flower. 

To believe that such ancient tulips still exist is hard for someone who
lives in a climate such as this where most tulips - unless cared for very
carefully - have a life span of about two years. And when I consider the
tumultuous history of the Low Countries, it becomes even harder to believe.
But there is a part of me that wants very much to believe it, and that part
is very happy this week. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where Mijnheer McKenney is
spending a lot of time around the tulip beds. 

My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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