It is undeniable that the hybrid tulip is a work of art. They are relatively new to the world of horticulture,though, only arriving in Europe around 1554. It was the merchants and travellers of the Silk Road, along which many species of wild tulips grow, who brought them to the West, in particular Istanbul, as early as the 12th century.
My love of tulips certainly sprung from a love of the cultivated garden variety, yet my admiration of and frustration with species tulips is what persists. Still I can’t help but plant hybrids every year. Anna Pavrod calls the wild tulips “willfully variable” and notes that “ establishing clear links and breeding lines is a problem” with all the hybrids we see today.
Certainly at this point the hybrids are being hybridized with the hybrids. And what is genetic chaos has created a kaleidoscope of beauties for the spring garden in temperate climes.
Here are a few of my favorites, at least this year: