Worth admiring: Lady Jane tulips furled up for the night, with World Expression and Sorbet in the background. The white narcissus is Thalia, an heirloom variety.
When their best tulips bloomed, sultans of the Ottoman Empire used to throw tulip parties. They called out the musicians, got a crew to put mirrored lights and filigreed silver tulip labels in the garden, and to pick even more tulips to put in bottles and vases between the ones growing in the ground. Food and drink flowed freely. Everybody who was anybody came.
The sultans had one big advantage: the moment their tulips were looking their best, they called and people came running. That doesn’t work so well when you are an ordinary person whose friends also have schedules. Tulips won’t bloom on a human schedule and, sadly, human life has distanced itself from accomodating the rhythms of a tulip.
In spite of these obstacles, I have had tulip admiration sessions, ranging from one friend coming over and chanting in Hindi as the sun set on the tulips (and I took photographs of them), to having a couple of friends to tea in the garden. This year I had the most elaborate tulip celebration yet. For some reason, several people were available on a couple of days’ notice. So I had them over to drink pink daquiris, eat finger food, and talk.
The pink daquiris were, of course, to match the red-and-white tulips currently in bloom. I got my recipe from The Joy of Cooking (that cookbook really does have almost everything). I partly chose it for the color (it matched the tulips), and partly because, studying the pages further, I realized the ingredients were almost the same as grog. So if the weather got suddenly cold and we had to move indoors, I could serve hot drinks instead.
When we ran out of space amid the tulips on the porch (it’s pretty much filled to capacity with plants), we moved to the side yard and looked at flowers as the setting sun lit them up.
We did eventually go indoors, but spent until dark sitting out, facing tulips, eating, drinking, and talking. The topic often reverted to plants, since I’d invited a bunch of gardeners. Some of them brought me plants, an unexpected and pleasing bonus. After we went inside I forced people to read catalogues, but they stayed anyway.
That sweet spring green time is so brief. It’s good to take time out to appreciate it, even if it’s only you, sitting out for ten minutes with your morning cup of coffee. Opening your eyes.
The Tulip, Anna Pavord, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1999, pgs. 45-6
The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Baker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1964