tulips from The Temple of Flora

Tulips from the Temple of Flora

It’s the last day of March, and we realised we haven’t shared a garden art piece with you this month.  Already this year we’ve shown you two engravings from Robert Thornton’s botanical masterpiece of 1807.  And nothing could be more appropriate at this season than one of our favourite spring bulbs.  Most tulip varieties flower in April or May, but a few open in March.  So here they are – tulips from The Temple of Flora. If you’d like to find out more about the whole book, look back at our January Temple of Flora post.   That will give you a brief history.  Alternatively, for a slightly longer read, we recommend visiting the Gardens Trust website.  Their blog post Robert John Thornton’s Temple of Flora is fascinating.  However, today we’re concentrating on the engraving of tulips.

The picture itself shows several different varieties of tulip, all of them the striped varieties we now know are caused by a virus.  In this case, however, the virus has a beautiful impact on the flowers.  Tulip breaking virus, as it is called, infects the bud and causes the petals to ‘break’ into two colours instead of one.  The random patterns of flames and stripes are highly sought after even now.  At the height of ‘tulipmania’ in Holland in the 17th century, the desire for unusual varieties was taken to extremes.  Prized individual bulbs sold for 3 or 4 thousand guilders, at a point when a skilled craftsman earned about 300 guilders a year!  In other words, it would be the equivalent of a bulb today selling for the price of a house!

Do tulips work in a living wall?

You may wonder whether you could incorporate tulips into a living wall.  We usually advise sticking to evergreens.  This is because even once the flowering period is over, the foliage still looks great all year round.  However, if you don’t mind a vertical garden that only looks good for a couple of weeks a year, go ahead!  Tulips will happily grow in a green wall, and we can show you evidence to prove it.  Take a look at the tulip wall in Holland, Michigan to see an amazing display, even if it’s bound to be short-lived.