A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be different than a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different. And there’s room in the garden for every flower. Marianne Williamson
Tulips are the symbol of paradise on earth. A simple and graceful design though modern tulips can be quite frilly or have massive blooms. Originally found in the Persia empire near Pamir and Tan Shan mountains (Afghanistan and Kazakhstan) and Turkey. The word tulips are from the Persian word for turban, dulband. It refers to their resemblance to turbans as they bloom. Men wore the fresh blooms in their turbans denoting prosperity or as a charm to fight evil.
The Ottomans Turks were enamored with tulips, cultivating them since the 13th century. Tulips were celebrated in religious and secular poems and art pieces as a reminder of heaven and eternal life. Suleiman the Magnificent through his friendship with the Holy Roman ambassador Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq help the tulip travel to Europe in the 16th Century. The ambassador was visiting Suleiman to aid in the peace process with Austria. Tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils captivated him, and he carried tulips to Augsburg where in 1559, the first tulip bloomed. As with other cultures, the tulip captivated statesmen and scholars.
It was this exchange with the ambassador that found the tulip passing into the Dutch culture where they its cultivation to a new level. In the 17th century the economy became mad with tulips creating its currency on their growth and breeding. Single bulbs would control the fortune of the merchants. They became the symbol of the wealthy and were seen as pots of gold. As values increase land was traded, fortunes lost, and the economy of Holland faltered. Two interesting reads about this time of Dutch history sometimes refers to as Tulip Mania are The Tulip by Anna Pavord and, Tulipmania, Money, Honor and Knowledge by Anne Goldgar.
The Dutch economy recovered, and they are now the number one growers of tulips. The ups and downs of Tulipmania led to another meaning that life can be brief. They are the national flower of the Netherlands. Tulip season begins when the City of Amsterdam celebrates National Tulip Day in January.
The colors and styles of tulips are as vast as their meanings. They are a sweet blossom connected to happiness and peace. A classic flower of love. Being one of the first flowers to bloom they can mean rebirth and have come to mean the heralds of spring. Victorians would use them to send messages of charity and supporting the less fortunate. They are the third’s most known flower after the rose and chrysanthemum.
The blooms are cup shape surrounded by showy petals. Centers can be dark or light, providing a contrast to the petals meaning a broken or light-heart. Larger petals symbolize fame and showiness. The mosaic virus when found in tulips make the petals brighter and more interesting.
In a bouquet, tulips can be used to express to the receiver that they are elegance and graceful. They can mean forgotten or neglected love. Indulgence. Daintiness. Tulips are symbolic of hope and faith, ideas, and the quest for perfection. Another sign of spring indicating a fresh start, new beginnings, or eternal love. Bouquet of bright red tulips speaks to passion and perfect love. Use tulips to celebrate the 11th wedding anniversary expressing devotion and love. Variegated tulips in a bunch mean I think your eyes are beautiful.
If you are wanting to send specific message use the below as a guideline.
Crème tells your partner that love is eternal and expresses commitment.
Orange is a striking color signifying happiness but can mean energy, warmth, enthusiasm, and desire. This color likes to say get on with it.
Pink symbolize happiness and confidence. It is a color of less intensity that speaks of affection and love. This color contains many meanings; pride and love, contentment, inner happiness, or friendship. A great choice for friends and family.
Purple represents royalty and a regal nature. Abundance and prosperity. Loyalty to others or material wealth.
Red is the symbol for perfect love and sign of everlasting love. Or undying passionate love, whether the passion is spurned or returned. Tales from Persian and Turkish legends tell us of the love between Farhad and Shirin. In one story, Farhad was a prince who fell in love with a beautiful girl named Shirin. She is murdered and, in his despair, rides his horse off a cliff. A red tulip grew where his blood touched the ground. In another Shirin is the royal and Farhad is the commoner. She rejects him and he goes to the hills to play music. She hears the music and falls in love with him. Her father creates a challenge for him to build a canal. As he is finishing the canal, her father tells Shirin that Farhad has died. She goes to be with him and together their blood becomes red tulips.
Red tulips with velvety black centers represent a lover’s heart, darkened by the heat of passion. In a myth from medieval times a woman was proposed to by three knights, each one declaring their love. She could not decide whom to choose. Praying to the Goddess of Flowers she transforms into a red tulip.
Yellow means eternal love, a cheery disposition, or cheerful thoughts. A flower with a sweet charm to express simple joy. The color of unrequited or spurned love. Sending a yellow tulip to someone means you love them, but you know they don’t return your feelings.
There are over 3000 different varieties of tulips. They are in the Genus Tulip, Family Liliaceae along with lilies and onions. The bulbs are starchy and caloric. These qualities helped in times of starvation and food shortages. It was not unusual for Roman soldiers to eat the bulbs. The tulip crash in the Netherland led once again to it as a food source. World War II saw the bulbs as part of the food stream as the Dutch went through yet another famine. Tulip petals can be used in several dishes.
Carrying tulip petals in your pocket brings good luck. Pixies live in the tulip beds in the Netherlands.
Tulips vibrate to the number six, an expression of charms and lovability. Six represents energy of responsibility, gratitude, and conscientious action. It blends and harmonizes its surroundings. A flower with a big heart vibrating at a level where is part of the picture, not center stage.
Old House Garden describes this broken tulip as sunrise in slow motion, opening with baby-smooth, pale yellow petals feathered with rose, and then day by day transforms itself into a big, ruffled flower of creamy white flamed with purple.
Grow tulips in your sacred space. They bring peace to the home. When you can, wear a boutonniere or give a tussie-mussie for prosperity and protection. The lipsticks of the garden, tulips bring the finishing touch to the spring bloomers as summer approaches.
The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.
– Basho (Japanese poet, 17th century)
The language of flowers goes as far back as the Assyrians, Chinese, and Egyptians. It includes flowers and tree blossoms and branches. They were used in courting, diplomatic discussions, weddings, and monthly correspondences. Spring was birth, rebirth after winter or life after death. In the autumn as flowers faded quickly death was followed by rebirth or moving to heaven. Planting of flowers on graves, shrines, and churches mimic this message. General meanings of colors spoke of white representing purity and death, while red symbolized passion, energy, and blood. Yellow captured gold or the sun or enlightenment. The Taoist tradition shows a golden flower growing from the top of the head.
The Chinese New year celebrates with the peony. A flower symbolizing good fortune and friendship. At one time they were only available to the emperor or the elite class. Peonies represent wealth, feminine beauty and during the middle ages the Christians used them to mean healing.
It was Cleopatra obsession with roses and her use as love symbolism that prompted growth and popularity around the world. It could be why it is called the Queen of Flowers. When roses are present, it could mean that the corresponding god or goddess was nearby. The variety of shades are used to describe many types of love. White – true love, pink – innocence, yellow – friendship, red – symbol of love, or purple – love at first site.
Many legends exist about the rose. In Greek mythology, Chloris the Goddess of Flowers created roses. She found the lifeless body of a nymph and turned her into a flower. She called upon Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, who gave the flower beauty. And Dionysus, the God of Wine added nectar to give it sweet fragrance. Zephyrus, God of the West Wind, blew the clouds away so Apollo, God of the Sun could shine. The petals opened like the sun’s ray to mimic the center of the universe.
During the time of the Ottomans the artistic messaging was perfected. Süleyman I’s reign contained over two hundred flower shops in the 16th century selling bulbs and cut flowers. Messages of love, good wishes, hatreds, and resentment were passed through flowers. A house with a yellow flower near the window meant a sick person was in the home and please be quiet. A red flower meant a young girl who had reached the age of marriage.
The wife of the English ambassador, Lady Mary Wortley Montague introduced this practice to England in her Turkish Letters of 1763. It the Victorians who developed an even more detailed list of messaging with flowers. There was such a great interest in this type of communication, several books were written, and the original meanings got a bit diverted. In Kate & Leopold, Hugh Jackman 19th century character explains the messaging of flowers to the young 20th century man.
Where I live in the PNW, tulips are king. The land breathes in their textures, colors, and occasional scents. The crowds come every April and swamp the country roads to see fields of tulips. Did that happen in Turkey where they originated? The name comes from the Persian word for turban due to their resemblances when blooming.
They mean perfect love, told in Turkish and Persian legends about the love between Farhad and Shirin. In one story, Farhad was a prince who fell in love with a beautiful girl named Shirin. She is murdered and, in his despair, rode his horse off a cliff. A red tulip grew where his blood touched the ground – the symbol for perfect love.
Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730) held a special place for tulips. So much so his reign is called the Tulip Era. Three hundred years before Dutch and British horticulture societies proposed the first classified list of tulip names. The Flourist-in-Chief judged new cultivars of tulips and their names. Fanciful and poetic examples were Those that Burn the Heart, Matchless Pearl, Increaser of Joy, Big Scarlet, Diamond Envy, or Light of the Mind. Only the most flawless cultivars were entered into the official tulip list.
The Turkish florist standards preferred tulips that were tall thin, narrowly contoured and with narrow-pointed tips. The pedals had to be smooth, stiff, of one color, the exact size and length, and with no gaps.
When you buy for your bouquets shop locally or use a Slow Flower Member.
If you are looking for modern day reads on the communications of flowers, check out these books.
The Secret of Wildflowers, A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore and History by Jack Sanders
The Magic of Flowers by Tess Whitehurst
*I use many references in my work. This section is only an indication of where I found unique information.
The Ottoman’s Flowers: Flowers as a symbol of Civilization, Elif Özdemir