Friday, November 11, 2011

The Tulip

"In no class of plants has nature so varied her delicate tints as in this."
A Short Treatise on Horticulture, William Prince, 1828

The photos in The Tulip Anthology make one realize why this flower made grown men faint with longing (and drove many to bankruptcy). The images of tulips therein are so lush and realistic that you can almost feel the cool softness of their petals against your cheek. Not only that, but these beauties are depicted in prints and decorative arts (e.g., Morris wallpaper, 18th-century court dress, a robe of Suleiman II), as well as being celebrated in prose. In Save Me the Waltz, Zelda Fitzgerald pictured "pink tulips like moulded confectioner's frosting," while Vita Sackville-West—famed for her novels, her horticultural acumen, and her relationship with Virginia Woolf—wrote of them thus:
The Parrot or Dragon tulips are well named, for some of them really do suggest the more gaudy macaws in their colouring, and the jagged edges of their petals always remind me of the wyvern, that winged heraldic cousin of the dragon.... I think that one should look at flowers in an imaginative way to squeeze the fullest enjoyment from them.... Gadelan was the maddest-looking tulip I ever had in my garden. It was smeared with as many colours as a painter's palette after a good day's work — dark blue, dark red, purple, green, white — and as to size, it must have measured eight inches across when fully opened.
This youtuber loved The Tulip Anthology so much she made a video, flipping through the pages. I'm with her!

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