1 Schoon Solffer 2 Lawrence’s Polyphemus 3 Rose Bacchus 4 Strong’s King
5 Beste Bruyne 6 Tulipa lutea lituris aureis 7 T. orphanidea 8 Speramondi
9Semper Augustus 10 Nazende al 11 Furuzende 12 Agate Maurine.
The wild tulips are native to the Mediterranean regions, Asia Minor and the Caucasus and extend as far east as China. The finest of these species are found around Bokhara and in Turkestan. It is generally considered to have been introduced here from Turkey during the mid-16th century. The German collector Graeber who worked for the Dutch nursery firm of van Tubergen wrote in the Botanical Magazine of Tulia lanata in the Asiatic Soviet Russia, “Every ravine in the red sandstone slopes reveals new forms which break the monotony of the leathery leaved pistachio and almond scrub. From the first days of spring there sprout here anemones, crocuses, irises, tulips, fritillaries and long shafted eremuruses.”
It puts me in mind of springtime in Tolsta, the crofts carpeted in orchids and on the machair and dunes the scent of primroses.
Having purchased an illustrated volume on tulips from the Bathesda charity shop for 50p I was inspired to paint a few specimens that illustrate the diversity the family tulipa encompass. While flowers attract insect life to aid in the method of reproduction so they also lift our spirits. We enjoy both giving and receiving flowers and the youngest of children without bidding would pick a bunch of wild flowers for mother. I remember a friend telling me she was so overwhelmed with the carpets of daffodils on the outskirts of Bath that she didn’t think at all before stopping and picking a bunch. She was brought back to reality with a jolt when a passer-by hurled some verbal abuse her way and threatened to call the police. Today’s bouquet of exotic blooms can be purchased throughout the year at any filling station or supermarket, carefully chosen foliage texture setting off the vibrant flowers full of sadly odourless colour. There are flowers for every occasion with Lily of the valley still being given to customers on May 1st. Weddings demand flowers but one has to specify no flowers at a funeral if you don’t want a repetition of the Lady Di syndrome. In France chrysanthemums are reserved for the dead and while arum lilies associated with funerals in England it is common to see them in a French bride’s corsage. Roses are inexplicably linked to love and war while the blood red of poppies are reserved for remembrance. The extra ordinary value put on tulips in the 16th century meant they were seen as a symbol of wealth that in the inevitable crash was once again observed in the late 20th century equivalent of bursting of the dot com bubble.