(Wide Open by Lori H. Photography @ Etsy)
In the garden
Straight and golden
In a row.
Each one holds
Its empty cup
And sunshine up.
A SIGN OF SPRING
Ah, spring….wait a second, it’s February! It’s supposed to be winter here, but Mother Nature has been saying otherwise. Contrary to what some folks believe, I do not live in an igloo, suck on maple syrup, go ice-fishing, nor live in a Narnia-ish winter landscape. Nope. Not I. I do live on the westcoast and “winter” has been so mild that I haven’t had to take out my winter wool coat or my snow boots. It’s been raining, yes, but the weather has been decidedly spring-like. Which is why we’re seeing the (surely confused) spring flowers blooming in February—notably, cherry blossoms, crocuses, daffodils, jonquils, magnolias, azaleas, and tulips.
PRETTY LITTLE TULIPS
Ah tulips. The tulip exudes a simple elegance. Tapered stems and a petal-cup that—as the poem states—is drinking rain and sunshine up. Although tulips conjure up stereotypical images of blonde Dutch girls in Volemdam and clogs, the flowers actually originated in the area spanning Persia to Turkey. Traders brought tulips into Europe in the 16th century; there, tulips were named for the Turkish word for “gauze” (reflecting the gauze turbans worn by the traders). Tulips reached The Netherlands in the 17th century, and eventually caused what some historians note as the first economic boom-and-bust cycle.
Fascinatingly (gosh, is that even a word?), during the Dutch Golden Age, tulips were seen as a luxury item and a status symbol. I find this interesting, considering I see tulips as an accessible “small indulgence” that makes me feel fantabulous. A bunch sets me back a little less than a barista-made drink, yet the effects last a lot longer!
And, of course, tulips are adorably pretty, so much so that I splurge a little extra on them, in remembrance that it’s our recognition of beauty around us that can open up our hearts to abundance and all those possibilities. They do bring on the joy!
TAKING CARE OF CUT-TULIPS
I’m not a gardener, so what do I know about tulip bulbs? Nothing. See, I’m more of a purveyor of the cut tulips that I can adorn in my living space. Here some tips that I use to keep my cut tulips fresh for 8-10 days:
1) Buy tight-buds: I beeline toward the tulips that show a little peep of color at the tips but are still green at the base. Not the ones that are so green all the way to the tip that I have no idea what colour the tulips will turn out to be. Trust, they start to unfurl their petals within the next day, slowly but surely.
2) Cut the stems: Cut about half an inch off the bottom of the stems immediately upon purchase; not on a slant, but a straight cut. Hey, you like cutting on a slight slant? Do it. Just ensure you don’t cut on a deep slant. This little move allows the stem to suck up water more readily.
3) Fill ‘er up! : In a clean vase, place enough cold (not lukewarm) water inside for the tulip to suck up in one day. This doesn’t mean all the up to the rim of the vase, aiya! About 1/3 of the vase is fine. Oh, it totally helps to have a tall, thin vase, as opposed to a wide vase.
4) Change water daily: I truly believe this works to keep my tulips lasting longer than usual, but sometimes it can be a pain in the arse to continually change out the water every single day. But I look at the happy tulips, and break down, and find myself refilling the vase with a fresh, new batch of cold water. I’m such a sucker. But you don’t want the water to sit and let bacteria grow, right? Right.
5) Don’t get all fancy now: Tulips like to keep things simple, so don’t go around adding those packets of flower food in the water. Tulips only need fresh, cold water, nothing else. That “food” makes them pass out!
6) See a penny: I simply use water alone, but if you swear by the folk remedy of placing a penny into the bottom of the vase (to keep flowers fresh) then by all means do it.
7) Grow, grow, grow! : Wow, this is news to me! Tulips continue to grow in the vase, even after they’ve been cut—up to an inch. As they grow taller, they tend to bend toward sources of light. Smartypants know this as phototropism.
8) On a bender: Since tulips continue to grow in the vase, you might need to re-trim the stems to avoid “the bends” – you know, when the tulip stems start to droop. Now there’s an art to re-trimming, as you don’t want the petals to drop off. Basically, you’ll want to remove the tulips from the vase, roll them up in newspaper so the paper extends above the flower cups but not covering the lower ends of the stems. Carefully hold the wrapped bouquet, and cut off the bits at the end. Oh, and if you want to un-droop (ha!) the stems, simply keep the tulips wrapped up this way after re-trimming, and place it upright in a vase holding fresh cold water. Just leave in a cool place for a couple of hours; thereafter, gently unwrap and place in vase.
9) Location, location, location: Tulips are sensitive to temperature, so place your vase of tulips in a cool area of your living space, and keep them away from your TV and computer.
THE LANGUAGE OF TULIPS
From my parents, I learned about flowers, their names, how to care of each kind of flower, and how to appreciate their beauty. My mother is a student of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower-arranging, and always brought flowers home; my grandmother paints florals using watercolors and sumi-e (black ink); and my father has a green-thumb that has designed a Japanese-garden in their backyard, complete with the Western styling of a gazebo covered in wisteria.
In this regard, the language of flowers (floriogaphy) has always piqued my interest. Apparently during the British Victorian era — a very close-lipped period it seems — floriography became a means for individuals to express their feelings through flowers. No, no, love letters weren’t stuck in bouquets, rather each flower was given a universal meaning (coded message), so, for example, the orchid signified “I await your favors,” and the yellow carnation meant “You have disappointed me.” Very neat. The language of flowers continues today in the art form called Tussie-Mussies, as well as in Hanakotoba, the traditional Japanese language of flowers.
TULIP SYMBOLISM & COLOURS
According to floriography, the tulip symbolizes “imagination, dreaminess, and/or perfect love.” (However, in Hanakotoba, sadly the tulip symbolizes “one-sided love.”). The tulip is also the 11th wedding anniversary flower, and the tulip’s soft black center is said to represent a lover’s heart, darkened by the heat of passion. Oh la! Who knew the simple tulip could be so saucy? (more…)