The cautionary tale of the 17th-century Dutch craze for tulips when a bulb sold for as much as $1,000 is a familiar one. Although a different kind of speculative frenzy is being played out today, in the stock market, perhaps the resurgence of interest in tulips is not entirely unrelated.
This year alone, three major new books have appeared on the subject. The Tulip, by Anna Pavord (Bloomsbury, 1999; $40), an encyclopedic volume, chronicles practically every detail of the social and horticultural history of this flower from its early cultivation in Central Asia to the current craze of tulipmania.
Tulipa: A Photographer's Botanical (Artisan, 1999; $65) will be published in November and includes 350 exquisite photographs of tulips by Christopher Baker, with historical and botanical information by Willem Lemmers.
Tulips, with an introduction by Scott D. Appell (Friedman/Fairfax, 1999; $40), is an oversized book that celebrates tulips with large, colorful photos, and verse by poets such as Shakespeare, Shelley, and Wordsworth.
So what's hot in tulips now? Purple and deep blue flowers, according to Breck's, the country's largest importer of Dutch bulbs. An excellent resource for gardeners more interested in growing these horticultural wonders than in reading about them is www.bulb.com, sponsored by the U.S. Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center.