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Modern Cultivation

The term ‘Rembrandt Tulip’ is still used, but now refers to broken Darwin type tulips which are coarser and less highly regarded by afficionados than the traditional English Florists’ type.  ‘Rembrandts’ are still available and make a colourful show.

Breakers are still much prized by specialist growers and exhibited at the annual shows of the Tulip Society.  The average gardener will seldom encounter them because modern tulip breeders have tended to breed out breaking.  However, you can still find a few in large plantings; Fig. 3 shows two examples found in a roadside municipal flower bed in the East Midlands.

Local Tulip Societies were once common in the UK, but in the late 19th. and early 20th. centuries their numbers declined and now only one survives: the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society, which merged with, and acquired the assets of the Royal National Tulip Society in 1936.  So the W&NOE is effectively now the Tulip Society and is dedicated to maintaining older cultivars and also to breeding and showing new varieties.

The ‘English Florist Tulip’ has its origins in the late 18th. and early 19th. centuries, and was bred to achieve perfection of individual blooms, rather than the mass colour display of the Dutch type.  Nor was this exclusively a rich man’s pastime, for many of the varieties were bred by working men in back gardens and allotments.  For instance, the varieties 'Dr Hardy', 'Sam Barlow' and 'Lord Stanley' were raised by an engine driver in Derby, in the mid-19th. century: all are still grown and shown today.

To be classified as an ‘English Florist Tulip’ a variety has to conform to strict criteria, set by the W&NOE, the main one of which is that the bowl of the flower should be approximately hemi-spherical.  For further details follow the above link.  The W&NOE hold an annual show for one day in May, in which you will see individual flowers raised to perfection and displayed singly in brown beer bottles marshalled in straight rows - the effect is oddly military.  The curious choice of container is presumably to concentrate attention on the flowers rather than on any fancy vases.  But if you want to see the ultimate tulip, forget the Dutch bulb fields, head for Wakefield in May.

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