Tip Toe through the Tulips

Our local farmers grow corn and soy beans.  An aerial view ​of Northwest Illinois is a quilt-like pattern with drab squares of various shades of green, brown and yellow.  It's neat ... but can't compare to the awesome, vibrant colors of the tulip fields of Amsterdam!

Tulip Fields

Tulips Fields

Think of tulips and you think of Holland, but it wasn't always so. Tulips are believed to have been first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey).  They were brought to Holland in the sixteenth century, but didn't make much of a splash until they caught the eye of Carolus Clusius. 

Born in 1526, Clusius was a trained medical doctor who became a pioneering botanist and horticulturist.  Doctoring and gardening seem like very different trades today, but during Clusius' time a doctor was expected to understand the medicinal properties of plants ... so doctoring and gardening were rather closely related.  In 1573 Clusius was appointed prefect of the imperial medical garden in Vienna by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II.  But, being a political job, he lost the position just three years later when Maximilian II died and a new Emperor was crowned. 

Despite his demotion, Clusius remained a well known botanist.  The University of Leiden (still teaching today and recognized as the oldest university in the Netherlands) established a garden for the medical students called the Hortus Botanicus, and in 1593 Clusius was appointed as prefect.  He was a scientific horticulturist, and his notes and planting lists were so detailed that, in 2009, 400 years after his death, the Hortus Botanicus created the "Clusius Garden". The Clusius Garden recreates the Hortus Botanicus of the early 1600s and it is still open for tours daily).

Carolus Clusius - 1585

Carolus Clusius, 1585

Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, 1610

Hortus Botanicus, 1610

In addition to his medical botany, Clusius enjoyed the beauty of tulips, and his writings on tulips made the flowering bulb famous.  Western Europe was entranced by the flower's bold colors, and impressed with the tulip's early blooming - a cheerful burst while so much of the outside world still appeared to be dead from the winter.  The tulip was so well regarded that Western Europe was overcome by "Tulipmania."  Prices were so high for tulips that speculators bought futures on bulbs (not just the flowers, but the bulbs), creating the first economic bubble and bust.  (Think back to the Beanie Baby boom in the 1990s, where beanies that were once bought and sold for thousands of dollars now are set out in a "Free" box at garage sales). 

Our tribute to the beauty of tulips is the Tulips Fields sock, the newest member of our World Traveler Sock of the Month series.  Non-knitters will look at these socks and say "Oooo, so many pretty colors!" and knitters will look at them and say "Agh! All those colors!"  But relax ... you do not have to change colors every two or three stitches because the tulip rows in the leg are knit sideways, in long horizontal stripes.  Much easier than you would think at first glance!

Tip toe through the tulips of Amsterdam - without ever leaving your favorite knitting chair.  ​

Happy Knitting ... Scout!

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