Tulips in Turkey and America

Tulips in Turkey and America
The modern history of tulips began in Turkey where they were widely grown. In the 1600s they were introduced to America.

Tulips in Turkey

These plants had apparently been grown in Turkey for centuries earlier, but the first definite account was in the 16th century. There were tulip festivals in Turkey, and there were even official state tulip growers.

From the 16th century on in Turkey, the preference was for the streaked and flamed tulip flowers. They preferred the dagger-shaped or lyre shaped flowers, and these would have more or less looked like those of the tulip species, Tulipa acuminata, which has been described as an ancient garden hybrid.

Tulips became one of the most widely grown flowers in Europe, which might serve to explain how tulipomania developed. However, this wasn’t totally an European phenomena. Tulips were widely grown in Turkey, particularly Constantinople. Here are two historical examples.

The gardens of the Topkapisaray was depicted in 16th century miniatures. The palace and gardens were planted in the 15th century after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The garden in 1593 served as a commercial operation with the grand vizier selling roses, violets, and other flowers, including tulips, as well as vegetables. In the 18th century, tulip festivals were held in the garden.

The ruler Achmed III created his own version of tulipomania by importing European tulips to Constantinople for his garden. Tiles dating from the 16th
century shows tulips in Constantinople gardens.

Tulips in America

Generally, America didn’t experience the tulipomania that swept Europe, which was partly due to the high cost of the tulips. However, most colonists preferred to grow other plants that they were familiar with in the old country. Tulips were first introduced to North America from 1600 on and until the 18th century most of the tulips grown in America were wild or species types. These included red and white candystick tulips, Tulipa clusiana, Tulipa armena, and Tulipa acuminata. They were grown in a few gardens in Colonial Williamsburg. They were planted in the Prentis garden. White lily flowered tulips were growing in the Orlando Jones garden, Tulips were also found in the John Custis garden, and these were white single tulips.

Thomas Jefferson grew tulips at Monticello although I didn’t find that The Garden and Farm Books specified which types. In 1782 in the garden book he listed the date of bloom for the tulips. Apparently some of his favorite tulips were the Florentine ones with an example being Zomerschoon.

This type of tulip actually naturalized locally in Rochester, New York in the Victorian Ellwanger garden.

The double tulips were introduced to America by 1725. Americans grew various colors of the Duc Van Thols (possibly Tulipa armera also called Tulipa suaveolens. These were only three to seven inches tall and had short stems. They were scented and early flowering, and likely a solid color or possibly with edges in a contrasting shade. Other tulips found in American gardens from 1600 to the 1800s were Keizrekroon/Kings Crown 1750. It had yellow edges.

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