My Neighbourhood Tulpengekte

Tulip scans — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

In the early 70s Rosemary and our two children Alexandra, Hilary and I lived in a little house in Arboledas, Estado de México. My attempts at gardening where that of a parvenu. To this day I have no idea what the names of our only two roses were. My mother, who lived with us until she died in 1972 was elegantly silent about gardening matters. She was a good gardener but thought that staying out of it was best.

I remember asking our gardener what the name of this plant or that one was. Invariably he would answer, “Tulipán.” Any conifer even though those that weren’t pines was a “pino

And for this little essay I have to quote my mother who was always bulb snatching (removing burned lightbulbs and replacing them with bulbs from other lamps). She would say, “Estoy devistiendo un santo para vestir a otro,” or “I am undressing a saint to dress another.”

Semper Augustus Tulip — 17th century

So here is my confession for today. I bulb-snatched today. It was not a lightbulb but a tulip (a collapsing one because of the rains) from a neighbour’s front garden. It seemed to be a sorry mess but I thought that there was still life in the tulip. I thought that the tulip (as I was paying it attention) would shower me with scanned beauties. And this was a fact!

Coincidentally there was this lovely (but scary) essay on Broken Tulips. I had never heard of the term even though I know all about the tulipamania that hit the Dutch in the 17th century. It seems that mothers in law were traded for extremely expensive and beautiful tulips and that the traders then forced those women into servitude.

So from the essay here, I find that the beauty of those tulips was because of a virus and the Dutch, this year have banned the importation of those Broken Tulips so as not to endanger their normal tulip business.

When I first spotted this tulip I noticed the striations on the outer petals. Yes these seem to be remnants of a once even more beautiful Broken Tulip.

And read this from Wikipedia about tulipmania:

Tulip mania or tulipomania (Dutch names include: tulpenmanie, tulpomanie, tulpenwoede, tulpengekte and bollengekte) was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed.

At the peak of tulip mania, in March 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsworker. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble (or economic bubble), although some researchers have noted that the Kipper-und Wipperzeit episode in 1619–22, a Europe-wide chain of debasement of the metal content of coins to fund warfare, featured mania-like similarities to a bubble. The term “tulip mania” is now often used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble when asset prices deviate from intrinsic values.]

The 1637 event was popularized in 1841 by the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written by British journalist Charles Mackay. According to Mackay, at one point 12 acres (5 ha) of land were offered for a Semper Augustus bulb.[6] Mackay claims that many such investors were ruined by the fall in prices, and Dutch commerce suffered a severe shock. Although Mackay’s book is a classic, his account is contested. Many modern scholars feel that the mania was not as extraordinary as Mackay described and argue that not enough price data are available to prove that a tulip bulb bubble actually occurred.

Research is difficult because of the limited economic data from the 1630s — much of which come from biased and very speculative sources. Some modern economists have proposed rational explanations, rather than a speculative mania, for the rise and fall in prices. For example, other flowers, such as the hyacinth, also had high initial prices at the time of their introduction, which immediately fell. The high asset prices may also have been driven by expectations of a parliamentary decree that contracts could be voided for a small cost — thus lowering the risk to buyers.

Originally published at