I decided to do a quick tour of the farm with my camera to warm me up. It was still 29 degrees at 11AM, and 22 in the shade. The sun is out now and making it warmer.
Most of the field is covered in snow. A little white Roman hyacinth was peeking out from it’s foliage. When by themselves, they are not much to speak if you are wanting a mass of color, but even the smallest bloom can put out the most amazing fragrance. I checked on our other Roman hyacinths in one of our long rows, and despite my continual efforts, the voles seem to have eaten them. We are left to the bulbs we have in crates, and even those I have to watch. Just two summers ago, perfect round circles were gnawed out of the bottom of each crate and our Byzantine gladioli were eaten.
Being stuck in a cold shed with limited internet today (we had to order a new wireless router and Rebecca is using the other computer to ship), I find myself surrounded by some of my favorite books. Some are technical and from my years at Texas A&M, like Greenhouse Operation and Management but others are more for pleasure, like historian Mike Dash’s book Tulipomania. The subtitle for the book reads Tulipomania: The Story of The World’s Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions it Aroused.
I find some of the facts interesting, such as “It was in the year 1559, then, that the first tulip definitely known to have flowered in Europe appeared. It grew in the garden of a certain Johann Heinrich Herwart, a councilor of Augsburg, in Bavaria” (Dash 32)
He goes on to cover the Dutch tulipomania in over 200 pages, but I found the end fascinating, where he describes the short lived mania over Lycoris (spider lily) bulbs in China!:
“In 1981 or 1982, spider lily bulbs were selling for 100 yuan, about $20. This was already a substantial sum, given the low annual salaries prevalent in China. But by 1985 bulbs of the most coveted varieties are reported to have changed hands for the astronomical amount of 200,000 yuan, or about $50,000, an amount that puts even the sums paid at the height of the Ducth tulip craze to shame. Thus, while Semper Augustus at its peak might have commanded between five and ten thousand guilders a bulb, which was four to eight times the income of a well-off merchant, the highest prices quoted during the jun zi lan [spider lily] mania were equivalent to no less than three hundred times the annual earnings of the typical Chinese university graduate—quite a staggering sum.” (Dash 220)
If you are interested in reading more, you can order his book for a reasonable price on Amazon. I contacted him directly once with questions about a future book I have coming out, and he was very nice and helpful in his response. Sadly, I let communication drop, as I often have in the past 6 years of starting The Southern Bulb Company.