A few weeks ago I posted on some double tulips from my local florist. They were a fresh and exciting contrast to the other tulips in the cooler, so it was surprising to learn that they have been around for hundreds of years.
Scott Kunst from Old House Gardens was nice enough to write a bit about double tulips and explain the possible origins of the ones that make their way to the florists' coolers, which you can read about after the jump...
"There are fifteen official groups/types/classes of tulips, and two of them are doubles: Double Early and Double Late. The late-blooming group is often called "peony-flowered".
Double flowers are relatively common mutations in many flowering plants. Throughout history, gardeners with an eye for the unusual have collected and propagated doubles, so the tendency to double has probably become more pronounced through the years. Sometimes breeders subject flowers to radiation and various chemicals to stimulate chromosone changes that are desirable, but I don't think that's how they get double tulips today. I think they just breed from existing doubles.
When I first visited the Hortus Bulborum, the Dutch botanic garden that's conserving some 2500 historic bulb varieties, I was blown away by the diversity in double tulips from the past. Most modern Double Early tulips are sports (mutations) of the great Murillo from 1860, so they all look a lot alike. The Double Lates have a pretty uniform look, too. But in the past there were all sorts of doubles -- incredibly full ones, sparse ones, globular ones, flat ones, ruffly ones, ragged ones -- you get the picture.
Double tulips are a hard sell today, since fashion has turned against them so, but we continue to champion them and hope to get more of those diverse, unusual ones into our catalog or at least as "web-only" specials at our website."
Tulip preordering starts now for most online stores, so if you are interested in planting these in fall you should reserve yours ASAP. Paeony Gold made me rush to hit 'add to cart' but OHG is unsure if they will be available. If you are as enamored with them as I am, you'll have to keep checking back or sign up for their newsletter.
matt at apartment therapy dot com