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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The Tulip a meticulously researched and delightfully descriptive history of a flower that, as far back as the 13th century, has not only been inspiring poetry and drama but also charting political upheavals, illuminating social behavior, mirroring economic booms and busts, and plotting the ebb and flow of religious persecutions.
Throughout The Tulip, Anna Pavord, gardening correspondent for Britain's The Independent and the author of The Flowering Year and Gardening Companion, traces the history of the flower as best she can. She confesses that it is a particularly rebellious and "unruly genus," continually slipping "out from under the careful parameters laid by botanists and taxonomists" -- and perhaps historians as well. Her sources are the historical writings of each period as well as the art, tapestries, and other items on which the tulip has been depicted through the ages.
Although tulips were praised by Persian poets as early as the 13th century, they did not become the celebrated emblems they are today until the 15th and 16th centuries under the Ottoman Empire. Mesmerized by the splendid colors of the tulip and its mysterious ability to change colors and patterns, sultans began compulsively planting the brilliant flowers in gardens throughout Constantinople and in their own royal pleasure gardens and orchards. With the help of travelers, royal ambassadors from Europe, religious refugees, and curious botanists, the flowers were soon flourishing throughout Europe, especially in Holland, and eventually in the United States.
Pavord supplements her tribute to the tulip with full chapters on each variety, including height, appearance, region, origin, and planting instructions, as well as a chapter on garden tulips. She also includes a detailed "Chronology of Tulips."
Lara Webb is a freelance editor and author of The Best Friend's Guide to Getting Married.