Skip to main content

My Victorian Garden: Gardening with Rare & Unusual Antique Heirloom Spring Tulip Bulbs

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Chazz is an Interior Decorator/Consultant/Retailer, amateur photographer, cook, gardener, handyman, currently restoring an 1880 Victorian.

Tulipa Insulinde from the early 1900s

Tulipa Insulinde from the early 1900s

Gardening with Rare and Unusual Perennial Tulips

This page will introduce you to some of the most exotic and rare antique and heirloom tulips and their (true) story of beauty, intrigue and high stakes finance that puts today's global banking, government, and stock market shenanigans to shame.

Royal Sovereign is the oldest surviving English Florists Tulip (from early 1800s).

Royal Sovereign is the oldest surviving English Florists Tulip (from early 1800s).

Why Rare and Unusual Antique Heirloom tulips?

Although our house (an 1880 Victorian) and its garden are still very much a (lot of) work in progress, we knew we wanted to create a period perennial garden to go with the house.

We have spent a lot of time researching and finding appropriate plants for each season and our climate. So even though the beds are not exactly laid out according to plan yet, we started choosing and planting perennials appropriate for our Victorian garden.

While not every plant we grow is pre-1900, we have tried to stick to those as close to what was available and in use circa 1880 or that the original owners may have added over the first years they lived here.

We are in zone 5, so you may not be able to grow all of these, but if you can, there is a lot to be said for gardening with plants that have been around so long. Many of these older varieties are hardier than newer hybrids. Some are fragrant and none are fussy. Heirloom tulips may cost a little more but they are well worth the investment, especially since heirloom tulips increase and come up every year while most new varieties will not.

As we add bulbs annually, we will update this page with additional photos as our new antique varieties bloom, so please bookmark this page or follow us on facebook or twitter for update notices.

A 1670 painting by Dutch artist Jan Davidsz de Heem, "Festoon with Flowers and Fruits"

A 1670 painting by Dutch artist Jan Davidsz de Heem, "Festoon with Flowers and Fruits"

Tulip Mania

As evidenced by the opulent tulip-filled still life paintings by the Dutch masters, tulip frenzy began in the 1630s in Europe when the coveted wild flowers were imported from Turkey.

The most popular were the elaborately colored and striped "broken" tulips which were feathered and flamed by benign viruses.

Tulips came to America with the earliest settlers. In the 1700s and early 1800s, tulips were grown as a mix of individual specimens.

In the mid to late 1800s, Victorians massed brilliant early blooming tulips in elaborate beds in their lawns. By the early 20th century, in part as a reaction to what was considered the excesses of the Victorian era, taller late-blooming pastel tulips came into production and favor and many of the earlier varieties were lost forever.

The Dutch Golden Age of Painting (And Tulips)

A trio of paintings from the height of Tulip Mania. (Described below).

A trio of paintings from the height of Tulip Mania. (Described below).

A trio of Baroque paintings from the Dutch Golden Age featuring flamboyant tulips (Left to Right): Christoffel van den Berghe’s (c. 1590- 1645) Tulips, Roses, Narcissi, Daffodils, Crocuses, an Iris, a Poppy and Other Flowers in a Gilt Mounted Porcelain Vase on a Ledge, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573 – 1621), Still Life with Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase, and Maria van Oosterwijck (1630-1693) Flower Still Life.

Detail: 17th Century Dutch Still Life Painting

Detail: 17th Century Dutch Still Life Painting

About "Broken" Tulips

The broken in broken tulips refers to the coloring. There is nothing damaged about broken tulips, although the contrasting coloration is caused by a virus. The virus does not harm the bulbs. However, because it can be spread by aphids and other insects, broken tulips should not be grown near other tulips or lilies.

Broken tulips should not be confused with modern "Rembrandt" tulips, which have been created by breeding and are not true broken tulips. Once you've grown the originals you will see that they do not compare.

Lost Tulips from the Past

A few of the tulips lost over time (described below)

A few of the tulips lost over time (described below)

Scroll to Continue

Shown above, left to right: Tulip cultivee Plate 375 from ‘Plantes de la France, decrites et peintes d'apres Nature', by Jean Henri Jaume Sainte-Hilaire (1772-1845). Tulips hand colored engraving from ‘Hotus Nitidissimis Omnem Per Annum Superbiens Floribus’ by Christoph J. Trew, and Color engraving of a Tulip from life (Plate 142) by P.J Redouté from 'Choix des plus belle fleurs' published in 1827.

Tulips.    Botanical Illustration by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Tulips. Botanical Illustration by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Fascinating Tales of Tulipmania

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Tulipa Gloria Nigrorum: A "Broken" Tulip from 1837

Gloria Nigrorum with early bearded iris and muscari (grape hyacinths)

Gloria Nigrorum with early bearded iris and muscari (grape hyacinths)

This photo better captures the actual color and beauty of the glorious nigrorum. © Author, 2015

This photo better captures the actual color and beauty of the glorious nigrorum. © Author, 2015

Also known as Violet Ponceau and La Victorieuse, Gloria Nigrorum (Black Glory) is one of the oldest surviving Bijbloemen (purple on white) broken tulips.

It is a striking deep violet on creamy white.

16" tall for zones 4 through 7.

Source of bulbs: Old House Gardens

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Columbine Tulip

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Columbine opens purple on white which quickly becomes a soft pretty shade of lavender. This Bijbloemen tulip dates to 1920 and bears the name of Harlequin's sweetheart -- and a sweetheart of a tulip it surely is! A demure 16 inches, Columbine will flourish in zones 4-7.

Heirloom Tulip Bulbs are True Perennials: Out of one, many

Here's a group that started with just one bulb a few years ago. The tulip in the background of the first photo is Purple Crown.

Here's a group that started with just one bulb a few years ago. The tulip in the background of the first photo is Purple Crown.

For More Beautiful Blooms Year After Year

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Other Types of Broken Tulips

In addition to the Bijbloemen tulips shown above, there are Roses (Red and Pink on White) and Bizarres (brown or red on yellow).

Within each of those three categories are three subcategories: Breeder, the original solid color, Feather, which describes tulips lightly marked with the darker color, and Flame, which refers to more distinct and dramatic high contrast markings.

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

A Wild Parrot Tulip from 1750: Markgraaf van Baden

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

This extremely rare early parrot tulip known as the "Mad Count Baden" is historically one of the most popular and important tulips. The folks at Old House Gardens have compared it to "molten lava cascading down a tropical mountainside." We can't think of a more apt description for the swirling flames of Markgraaf van Baden. 16-18" Tall for zone 4-7.

Wacky Weather Wreaks Havoc on Wild and Crazy Tulips - Spring 2012 Garden Battered by Fluctuating Weather Extremes

On the left, T. Perfecta and on the right, Markgraaf van Baden.

On the left, T. Perfecta and on the right, Markgraaf van Baden.

After an unusually warm winter and early spring temperatures that felt more like summer, we were hit by a snowstorm on April 23rd followed by a warm spell broken by gale force winds and rain with a severe hailstorm at the beginnng of May. We've got some battle-weary tulips amongst the survivors.

Temperatures were back to near 80+ degrees (fahrenheit) again within a couple of days. Still repairing the latest damage as much as possible. Took the above photos the morning after the hailstorm when I literally peeled these blossoms off the ground.

Tulipa Cafe Brun: Another Early but Not-So-Early Parrot Tulip

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Dating to 1840, this flamboyantly gorgeous tulip is inexplicably named Cafe Brun, which translates to Brown Coffee. Looking more like a dragon's fiery breath, this tulip grows in zones 5 through 7 and is 12 to 14 inches tall. Ours bloom in mid-May.

The Granddaddy of Wild & Crazy Tulips

If you think tulips Markgraff van Baden, Perfecta, and Cafe le Brun are phenomenal, take a look at the botanical illustration of Tulipa Monstrosa Rubra Maior !

This is a lithograph by Johann Wilhelm Weinmann (1683-1741) of an actual tulip.

As his name indicates, Weinmann was a German artist and his work is further evidence of the European (and soon world-wide) epidemiology of Tulip Mania.

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Tulipa Gloria Solis (Glory of the Sun) Dates to 1854

Tulipa Gloria Solis and Visitor.

Tulipa Gloria Solis and Visitor.

'Glory of the Sun' was one of the most popular tulips between 1860 and the mid-1900s. It then fell out of fashion and became endangered, almost completely disappearing. It is still a hard-to-find rare tulip. About a foot high, early blooming, and rated for zones 5 through 7.

Tulip Protea 'Peony Gold' - First Bloom Spring 2012

Photos show the progressive color change of T. Peony Gold over several days.

Photos show the progressive color change of T. Peony Gold over several days.

Fourth in progression of peony tulip's bloom.

Fourth in progression of peony tulip's bloom.


Although this beauty (above and on right) looks like a trendy new designer hybrid, it is actually an antique heirloom tulip from the 1700s height of tulipmania.

Extremely rare, heirloom tulip Peony Gold changes color from pale yellow green to yellow and frequently followed by gold brushed with red.

Blooms early (mid-April) for us most years. Hardy to Zone 4.

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs
my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Purple Crown Tulip

A Very Rare Flower from 1785


Purperkroon (Purple Crown) is a double early blooming tulip that is one of the very few from the 1700s available at all.

Also known as The Moor, Purperkroon is a regal rich purple-red standing about 12 inches tall. It will do nicely in zones 5-7.


my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs
my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Tulipa Willem van Oranje


This exhuberant tulip (shown above and to the left) was named for the founder of the Dutch Republic in honor of his 400th birthday.

Hardy in zones 3 thru 7, Tulipa Willem van Oranje is just under 12 inches tall and an exhuberant blend of copper tones with peach, orange, rose, and gold.

An impressionist painter's dream!

Tulipa Lac van Rijn: An Extremely Rare Tulip from 1620

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

This rare survivor from tulipmania was one of the most expensive tulips in the 17th century and commanded prices equivalent to thousands of dollars today. Although it still commands a higher price as tulip bulbs go, if you are lucky enough to find one, you can expect to pay less than $15. Not bad for an almost 400 year old antique of such beauty! Lac van Rijn (pronounced Lock von Rhine) is a single early tulip that is a good naturalizer, 14 inches tall, zones 4-7.

Even Rarer: General Ney Tulip - From 1837

General Ney Heirloom Tulip from 1837

General Ney Heirloom Tulip from 1837

Named after one of Napoleon's generals, this is an early single tulip that is a most unusual rich mahogany or cordovan color that changes tone with the light, sometimes glowing with more of a red undertone and sometimes a tad more purple. Difficult to explain and even more difficult to capture in a photo. Grows to about 16-18 inches. Zone 4-7.

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

We Were Honored to Have Our Tulips Chosen as Page of the Day March 20, 2012

Robin Svedi wrote:

Today as we say hello to spring, we invite you to stop and smell the tulips -- but not just any tulips.

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

At My Victorian Garden: Gardening with Rare and Unusual Antique Heirloom Spring Tulip Bulbs, Chazz shows us several delightfully rare tulips from his own garden where he is attempting to recreate the look of the land during the late Victorian era:

"We have tried to stick to those as close to what was available and in use circa 1880 or that the original owners may have added over the first years they lived here."

At the lens, in addition to viewing Chazz's own gorgeous tulip photos, you'll also learn about the history of these perennial favorites and why having "broken" tulips in your garden is a good thing...

Best of all, Chazz promises to update the lens as more of his flowers bloom.

What a great way to keep an online garden journal!

Can't get enough Victorian era flowers? Visit ---Chazz's other pages in his Victorian garden series: Heirloom Daffodils and Antique Roses.

Thank you, Robin, for such a wonderful introduction!


my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs
© Author. All Rights Reserved.

© Author. All Rights Reserved.

Don't Miss Our Other Victorian Garden Pages

For More Antique Heirloom Flowers

• Gardening with Antique Perennial Daffodils and Other Heirloom Spring Bulbs

• Growing Romantic Old Garden and Old Fashioned Roses in a Victorian Garden

• Antique Heirloom and Old Garden Roses: Categories & Characteristics

• Growing Heirloom Bearded Iris


We're So Glad You Stopped By!

my-period-garden-rare-unusual-antique-heirloom-spring-bulbs

Leave a comment or just say hello. We'd love to hear from you.

© 2011 Chazz

This space is for you - Let us know you were here

Silvia on August 19, 2016:

Hi! Beautiful flowers, thanks!

mistyriver on May 16, 2014:

These are beautiful!

sybil watson on March 01, 2014:

Blooming bulbs are my favorite type of spring flower. I love how you've tried to plant the tulips that would have been around when your house was built - gorgeous!

liny-tan on April 10, 2013:

really lovely tulips. wish i could grow them too! useful and informative

lens

liny-tan on April 10, 2013:

really lovely tulips. wish i could grow them too! useful and informative

lens

laurenrich on March 15, 2013:

Thanks for sharing such a beautiful lens. Great information.

Elaine Chen on January 30, 2013:

I like all those beauty pictures in this lens

John Dyhouse from UK on January 28, 2013:

Still loving the wonderful tulips in this lens, topping up the blesssing.

Barbara Walton from France on January 27, 2013:

Wonderful blooms! I love tulips and especially the 'wierd' ones. I love the way they snake and flop too.

Vikki from US on January 27, 2013:

How Have I not seen this lens? I guess I wasn't supposed to until this very moment. "Blessings"

Anna2of5 on December 12, 2012:

There is a Lot of Squid Angel dust on this lens, how neat! Your lenses and your photos are all so Beautiful, i love to visit and get lost in all the beauty and knowledge about what you do. So many thoughtful touches. Your house must have had lovely bouquets all season. What fun. I'd love to see a lens about your landscaping and what the larger picture looks like for an established garden such as your. You may have already done one I'll keep looking. :D

lesliesinclair on September 03, 2012:

When my mom brought me a huge bouquet of double tulips I got carried away photographing them because they were stupendous. Love your photos

Camden1 on August 13, 2012:

What beautiful tulips - you're inspiring me to take an interest in gardening!

joannalynn lm on May 13, 2012:

I order her plants from the Monticello site a couple of times a year, and often heirlooms. Now you have me on a new track...tulips! This is exciting.

randomthings lm on May 13, 2012:

This is a beautiful lens. And the different types of tulips...I had no idea. Thanks for sharing.

Chazz (author) from New York on May 12, 2012:

@joannalynn lm: Hi Joanna - Thanks for sharing this with your mum. To answer your question, Jefferson was fond of tulips and grew Lac van Rijn, Duc van Tol, tulipa cv (a yellow with red), parrot tulips and others. He frequently had bulbs shipped from Europe and had mostly the striped varieties popular in the latter 1700s. You should be able to see some of these and get more info on the Monticello website. Hope that helps. Thanks again.

joannalynn lm on May 11, 2012:

My Mum's favourite flowers are tulips, and she loves heirlooms of every kind. These are so beautiful (my tulips seem so ordinary). She is going to be delighted with your lens :), which I am going to share with her. Do you know if Thomas Jefferson had any tulip varieties he cultivated at Monticello?

Sher Ritchie on May 11, 2012:

Congratulations on your Purple Star - and happy Tulip Day (May 13th). (I've featured your lens on mine: https://hubpages.com/holidays/windmill-day-is-fun under the Tulip section). Thanks for sharing!

TheCheshireCat on May 02, 2012:

Beautiful. COngrats on all the awards. Well deserved.

gypsykitschpres on April 23, 2012:

So pretty!

poutine on April 23, 2012:

lovely

Auntie-M LM on April 22, 2012:

Goodness, I wish I had your green thumbs and fingers and toes!

MargoPArrowsmith on April 22, 2012:

Angel Blessed. The guy who wrote Wicked, also did a rewrite of Cinderella which is also about the black market in bulb trading centuries ago.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on April 21, 2012:

I do love tulips and your tulips are really beautiful!

arcarmi on April 20, 2012:

So beautiful!

Stephanie from DeFuniak Springs on April 19, 2012:

Love your lens! High FIVE!

Ksushella on April 16, 2012:

Beautiful! I palnted some tulips in my garden and they are just about to show all their beauty! Can't wait to see...

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on April 14, 2012:

I am a tulip lover too. My tulips are filling out nicely and will be blooming in about two weeks and I'll be posting pictures of them on my tulip lens. This was very educational for me - many of the tulips I received from my parents got spoiled with poor storage facilities. Too bad. There were some very different flowers there. Now, I have normal, but, still beautiful tulips. How I do go on!

Congratulations on your purple star and LotD awards for this lens. Angel blessings!

dellgirl on April 12, 2012:

Love this beautiful lens! I'm off on a liking & pinning expedition. I'm pinning this on Pinterest.

greasergirlalex on April 10, 2012:

This lens shows great detail on gardening rare and weird flowers and plants

dwnovacek on April 10, 2012:

Beautiful lens - I love tulips so much and you've given us a great lens to help us enjoy them. Angel Blessed!

Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 09, 2012:

I love that Tulipa Willem van Oranje! Your garden is growing beautifully.

Rob Hemphill from Ireland on April 09, 2012:

Such a beautiful lens with fantastic photos. Tulips, especially the variagated ones, make great subjects for anyone interested in macro photography.

whats4dinner on April 05, 2012:

Beautiful photos! Probably even more stunning in real life. Great job!

ViJuvenate on April 02, 2012:

I love that you are not only restoring the interior of your home, but the exterior as well. It would be easy to go crazy with tulips, they are so stunning. The parrot tulips have always caught my eye as well.

Michey LM on April 01, 2012:

Ge! Beautiful pictures, great to come back!

Happy April Fool's Day... have fun!

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on March 30, 2012:

What a beautiful page! Tulips are among my favorite flowers, and you've delivered a stunning bouquet. I had completely forgotten the term "broken tulip." Thank you for reminding me of this old term. And the Wild Parrot--gorgeous.

flycatcherrr on March 30, 2012:

I may have said this a few dozen times before, but what wouldn't I give to visit your garden - especially now that spring has come, and with your heirloom bulbs in bloom. I hope you're going to keep your camera very busy all through the season, Chazz!

caronia on March 30, 2012:

beautiful !!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 30, 2012:

Congrats. Love to have a garden like this.

norma-holt on March 29, 2012:

Congrats on the award. Beautiful lens now featured on Squidoo LOTD Lenses2 and also on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012.

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on March 29, 2012:

Hi spring bulbs make the garden come alive,you have some that I have never heard of and so pretty.Thanks for sharing.

acreativethinker on March 29, 2012:

Simply beautiful. Thanks for sharing. :)

Ann Hinds from So Cal on March 29, 2012:

I knew there were a lot of varieties but haven't seen some of these. Very impressive.

goo2eyes lm on March 28, 2012: