Harnett County,
North Carolina

Is it too late to plant bulbs?


Question Is it too late to plant bulbs?

Answer We’re still in the midst of “tulip mania.” Maybe it is more like “bulb mania.” “Tulip mania” was a time in the 1630s when the Dutch went crazy over tulips. Most folks think tulips originated in Holland, but that is not true. Tulips actually came from the Russian Chinese border in the neighborhood of Islamabad.

Believe it or not, Europeans sometime had the habit of going overboard when they found a new plant. Coffee, potatoes and tea are other plants that were imported yet are associated with the identity of certain European areas.

The importation of tulips by Carolus Clusius (this may sound like a Coyote and Roadrunner scientific name for Christmas carols, but this was the guy’s name) in the 1600s began an era known as “tulip mania.” People would actually go to extremes in the bartering for tulip bulbs. One Dutch farmer traded two loads of wheat, four loads of rye, four fat oxen, eight pigs, a dozen sheep, two oxheads of wine, four tons of butter, a thousand pounds of cheese, a bed, some clothing and a silver beaker for a single tulip. Truly, this is the definition of “mania.”

During “tulip mania,” growers began selling promissory notes for “hot” varieties. Buyers would scalp these notes by selling them at a higher price. The new buyers would again sell the notes. The trick was to be able to sell the note and make money before the actual bulb was delivered. The sucker was the unlucky holder of the inflated note when the bulb arrived. The trade in the future promise of tulips was known as tulpenwindhandel, which meant “tulip wind trader.” It was called a wind trade because the transaction involved nothing more than air. Eventually the shine wore off their new penny. Nowadays you could probably get a tulip bulb in Holland for a single oxhead of wine.

These spring blooming plants are planted in the fall. November and December are the best times for most of North Carolina. Folks in the United States don’t have to deal with tulip wind trading prior to planting time. We simply buy our bulbs at local garden centers when its time to plant. Tons of planting and maintenance information can be found at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/bulbs-spring/bulletin31/spring_flowering.html

If you don’t have internet access, then call or email me at (910) 893-7533 or gpierce@harnett.org

We modern age Americans can only laugh. We would never stoop to the trading of speculation on a commodity. How medieval that is. Now tell me again about “oil mania” and petroleumwindhandel.

Gary L. Pierce

Horticulture Extension Agent

Harnett County