Tulipomania Revisited

P&IHaving grown up in western Washington, where the largest bulb growers in the US have their fields, and spending my youth in the ‘Daffodil Valley’ where I attended school with tulip and daffodil farmers’ kids–and our town celebrated an annual Daffodil Parade with daff-covered floats and yellow-gowned princesses–I might be excused for having a penchant for bulb flowers, Tulipomania of my own sort. With a climate fairly similar to their old home’s in the Netherlands, it’s no surprise that the van Lierops and others of my classmates’ ancestors found the rich volcanic soil and temperate weather of the Pacific Northwest very welcoming as an environment for restarting their bulb-growing life stateside. The Skagit Valley, set in between where I spent the majority of my growing-up and the place where I did my grad-school growing, is one of the most fertile and spectacular places to go tulip-viewing in peak season outside of the fabled Keukenhof gardens.

All the more reason that it shouldn’t shock you that I have a teeny little meltdown of adoration when the Valentine’s Day displays of tulips appear in all of the shops. Here in Texas, however, and particularly with what I’m learning is typically a pair of widely separated and very short viable growing seasons, and only with a lot of attentive care, I’m skeptical that a large investment in tulip bulbs would be the smartest way to spend my gardening money. I think I shall devote more of my time, dollars and attentions to water control systems and hardy prairie and semi-desert plants hereabouts. But I’ll never stop enjoying tulips when and where I can. Knowing my eternally optimistic streak, I won’t say absolutely that there won’t be tulips in this transplanted Texan’s garden anyway.P&IAs you can see from today’s set of pen and ink drawings, it’s not only the brilliant colors and satiny textures of tulips that appeal to me, but also their form, and the graceful graphic beauty they lend to their environs. The first drawing above was made for the cover of the service programs for my sister’s wedding, when she very thoughtfully married a man whose parents ran a wonderful florist shop and supplied their Spring nuptials with a gorgeous rainbow of bright pastel tulips that burst with brilliance for the occasion and for many long days after. Thankfully, there was and is ever so much more to her man-of-choice and his family, but the tulips sure didn’t hurt! The second image came from a set of sketches drawn for a series of greeting cards meant to raise funds for a church group, and since I knew that the cards were very often sent as get-well wishes, condolences, congratulatory notes and other quite personal greetings, it seemed to me that there were few images that could supply the right note of kindness, cheer and gracious care than a bunch of tulips.

All of this is a rather roundabout way of saying that, though I did not (as yet) plant tulip bulbs, that vision in yesterday’s errand-running expedition all over town of all the shops being inundated with the life and joy of tulips got me salivating for garden goodness, so I wandered out to our back-forty (.04?) and, basking in another round of wildly inappropriate-for-February warmth, planted a bunch of seeds. What will become of them, I cannot tell, but I’ll keep y’all posted. Meanwhile, I am happy at just having stuck my fingers in the dirt with some positive purpose for a little bit and planted my little measure of hope.P&II’ve a fondness for so many growing and blooming things, but no particular mastery of helping them along that path, so I will fumble along with what I can. In the next few days I’ll tackle the spring grooming of some of the other parts of the garden, including the bed of irises I transplanted when I found them last year under the paving stones so nicely placed by our house’s previous owner and was astonished to see that they had refused to die there. Whether they can thrive enough to bloom after however long they were interred, I have yet to see, but they are already leafing out in their new digs happily, and if they don’t drown in one of our brief outbursts of heavy-duty rain before I can redirect the brunt of it off of them, they will at least provide their small oasis of green glory to the garden until the Texas sun beats them back into the hard clay ground they wrestled so innocently to escape. Not to mention that my lack of Master Gardener status means lots of things must fend for themselves bravely. That’s just the way things go here: plants must be as tough as they are attractive to get the green-thumbs-up from Mother Nature de Tejas. Or me.

38 thoughts on “Tulipomania Revisited

    • Thank you–I’m so please you enjoy these! And especially that you came by here and got me to visit (and subscribe to) your blog, because WOW, your stuff is beautiful. I’m a cheating slob: these P&Is are just dashed off with permeable-tip fine points and cleaned up a little digitally when I scanned them. Though I must say, after the long time the first two had sat in my files, I’m kind of amazed they haven’t faded more. Still, nothing beats real ink and real craftsmanship for depth.

  1. I have sharpened pencil crayons at the ready… I have the urge to print off your beautiful sketches and begin coloring them in… I love for spring!! Tulips are my favorite… I have a huge painting of one in my living room.. a buttery yellow/white tuliip. I hope your irises make it.. I think they are hardy plants. I have quite a few in my front flower bed, but I won’t be seeing those pop up for some time now. What seeds did you plant?? xoxo Smidge

    • I think I already gave you blanket permission to use my pen & inks as coloring books whenever you like. I might pester you to post the results, if you’re happy with them, so I can share in the fun. πŸ™‚

      I have some hope for the irises, since they’re not quite developed enough yet to get nipped by a late (for here) frost if one hits in the next couple of weeks. Hope, hope. I’ve planted a couple of dozen varieties of herbs, veg and flowers and have a large batch of hand-mixed wildflower seed for planting soon, so maybe I’ll just post a list of my intended sprouts shortly. πŸ™‚


  2. enjoyed both your sketches, and your thoughts on the tulips. We have them her on many public pieces of land, roundabouts, and islands separating opposite lanes on our streets, all a gift from Holland.

  3. Such beautiful illustrations for this post, Kathryn! And, I’m with ya. I, too, love tulips! Our climate, as I’m sure you know, is quite a bit, shall we say, milder than yours and tulips do well here. I love to see them pop through the soil and really look forward to their blooms. So do the school children, who yearly swipe a few on their way to school. (Actually, I’ve no way of knowing who’s doing the swiping but the idea of children doing it doesn’t anger me.) I think you’re wise, though, to stick to plants more indigenous to your climate. The plants will do better, look healthier, and your garden will look all the better.

    • When we were in Chicago for a conference last year over St Patrick’s Day, I was amazed to see some of the tulips already peeking up in the beds in the center of town, because it was still pretty chilly. But what a welcome sight!!

  4. Tulips wil grow in N Texas, dearie – just be sure they drain well, like a slightly raised bed or in a planter. Daffs will happily colonize your entire yard, given a half-a-hundred years or so! The irises are tough old broads, too. If you moved them last summer, I expect you’ll get some bloom this April. Remember not to bury the rihzome too deep – in your climate, they want to almost sit on top of the soil – or what passes for soil in Texas!
    Happy Mucking-About!

    • Yes, I left the irises rather ‘floating’, so maybe I’ll get lucky! Knowing that about the daffs makes me think I might buy a cheap batch for naturalizing out back once I’ve gotten that side started. Uh-oh, you’re corrupting me further! πŸ™‚

  5. That’s a coincidence: yesterday Eve (my seΓ±ora) came home from work with two potted tulips she’d been given there.

    Your pretty tetraptych reminds me of illustrations I saw a couple of decades ago when I pored over original volumes of the German magazine Jugend (which means “Youth”) that I found on the shelves of the main library at the University of Texas here in Austin. if you’re not familiar with Jugend, and if you can track down any copies, I feel certain you’d revel in its art. There’s a lot of information about it, including images, at:


    Steve Schwartzman

    • Am I remembering correctly that that publication was directly rooted in the origins of Jugendstil? A *world* of fabulous design and illustration, that school/era. I’ll most certainly have a look! Thanks.

      As I say, I haven’t given up on the concept of Texan Tulips entirely, just know that I’ll have to tread delicately to treat them properly. We shall see!

  6. Nothing says spring like getting some dirt under your fingernails. I’ve never been much of a gardener, but a few years ago, one of my sisters came to stay with me after I had surgery, and she had some serious ants in her pants. This prompted her to find a local garden store, where she promptly set about digging up and creating a beautiful planting bed, and then filled it with an array of lovely pentas and other flowering plants. For several years I was able to enjoy the fruits of her labors (until I moved away from that house). I’ve never had someone create a garden for me before, and I’ll have to say … it was lovely.

    Whether your gardening efforts are minimal or on a grand scale, I hope you will find joy in the fruits of your labor. Including the remnants of the dirt under your fingernails. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you for sharing the lovely remembrance of your gift garden! I think my best efforts in gardens so far have been a couple of projects I did for my parents’ place to help repay when I rented from them after grad school. Since they were traveling a lot for Dad’s work at the time, I got the house to myself a fair amount anyway, and used a few of their absences to dig in, quite literally, as they had an enormous yard and loved it well. Maybe I can find some photos of the results to post sometime. If I can find *anything* in my awfully disorganized real-photo stash!! πŸ™‚ For now, it’s nice to *have* a spot for such digging again.

  7. Waht beautiful images, Kathryn! I especially like the fist one. I love the beauty of flowers (if you couldn’t tell πŸ˜‰ ) and tulips and iris are my favorites. I suffer from a brown thubm so must leave the successful cultivation to others.

  8. On a similar theme we once owned a farm that had been all planted to gladioli previously (not sure if that’s the plural) which is also a bulb. I have a picture somewhere of my tractor parked in amongst all these beautiful different coloured flowers which I was slashing (mowing) at the time.

    • I’ll bet that was quite the property! There was a mid-sized dahlia farm near us that I’d forgotten about until you mentioned the gladioli (yes, that’s the correct plural)–that was very beautiful in full bloom too! I can imagine the mowing of glads was a pretty colorful enterprise!

  9. You know if you want to, tulips grow really well in pots, just pop them in the fridge for 6 weeks to chill them, then watch them grow.. I did this one year in London when I did not have a garden, imagine the torture of me with no garden.. I had window boxes in my fourth story windows! Watch out Below!!! c

    • I’ll get whatever splashy stuff I can in there–as a gardener I tend toward the over-the-top approach mostly, at least over time. Tulips will very likely sneak into some planters if not elsewhere. πŸ™‚

  10. I’m with Celi here try a few in tubs or pots, I finally got round to planting some this year, and they are just showing through, my excitement will no no bounds when they do flower and as long as the wind holds off for a while I’ll get to enjoy them from the comfort of the sitting room window. But what I would love to do is plant loads of them down a stretch of the garden – orange ones. I can just imagine them in all their massed glory.
    And you have reminded me that I planted some Iris near our pond but I haven’t seen anything of them!

    • Mayhap you and I both will get our irises revived. And some showy tulips joining the fun too! My favorite planters I’ve ever had were some galvanized livestock tanks I used at a previous home. I’m tempted to use tanks like that again behind this house, because they’re so simple, rustic and easy to use. And the little kids in the neighborhood were *thrilled* when I first got them, thinking I was putting in a series of kiddie pools! They were mildly horrified to see me taking my axe to the bottom of the tanks until I grew some white miniature pumpkins and other things in the tanks that they liked very much indeed (especially when I let them pick and take home some of the fun things).

  11. I am insanely jealous of those people who can grow anything – you know the ones I am talking about: they can plant a Popsicle stick and grow it into a Japanese maple. I have very little patience with “those people.” I can put impatiens into the ground in the late spring though and with the aid of Miracle Grow (Miraculousipus Growiculum), I can get them to yield a few blooms before they wilt and die. One banner year, I planted my fall chrysanthemums and they came up the following spring!!!

  12. Ahh, your illustrations breathe tulip-life onto the page. So very pretty Kathryn! How versatile you are with pen and pencil, crayon, brush and canvas leaves me speechless! xoxo

    • Your constant encouragement makes it all so much more worthwhile and easier, too, Antoinette. You are a delight! I’m glad I could please you with this. Every little bit helps!

  13. I love colourful bunches of tulips. And I love your beautiful pen and ink drawings. Unlike Texas I think tulips grow quite well in Ireland although I have never planted any bulbs. I have just scrolled back to have another look at your drawings, they really are lovely. If a gifting genie were to grant me three wishes – one of my asks would be to be blessed with a talent for drawing.

    • Thank you, B, I am so glad you enjoyed these. Yes, I think Dublin’s area has a fairly similar climate to that in the Pacific Northwest here, where I grew up as a tulip lover. They really flourished in that climate. πŸ™‚

  14. Pingback: Tulips, Tulips Everywhere in Keukenhof, The Netherlands « Journey Around The Globe

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