Spring bulbs were once wildflowers carpeting hillsides and fields. of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Eurasia and other parts of the world. The hardiest species often flowered in melting snow. As the weather warmed flowers of one species overtook blooms of the next creating an aurora of changing colour like a living rainbow.
Early tribes saw this display as a miraculous natural “sign” signifying the return of sunshine, warmth and prosperity. Wild tulip and anemone were the first species glorified in early flower festivals. Hyacinth, narcissus and iris were also cherished and became immortalised in mythological legend. Each still carries the name of a Greek or Roman deity.
Their popularity grew when sorcerers began using them in potions for good luck, love, and fertility. By the 16th Century economic speculation in Holland Inspired the creation of thousands of flamboyant tulip cultivars.
The resulting “tulipomania” nearly destroyed the economies of several European nations where vast personal fortunes were won and lost over their beauty. At their peak of popularity estates often featured mixed bulb gardens blanketing many acres in spectacular carpets of colour.
Today we still cherish bulbs as endeared symbols of spring. But increasing demands of modern living often mean that instead of picking the flowers from the fields or our gardens we are more likely to pick them up at the florist. Millions are sold annually as cut flowers. Growing a few bulbs in the garden or pots, naturalising a drift in the lawn, or a mass-planting of one variety is easy enough for beginners and especially rewarding for children.
Large mixed displays of continuous colour like the ones of old require more time, effort and skill. Consequently, they are seldom seen now, usually limited to private estates and selected botanical gardens employing full-time gardeners.
In thanks for your continuing support, Woman’s Day readers are invited to the Quarter Acre Paradise to see a unique bulb garden. Nearly 10,000 blooms supplied by growers throughout New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere are beginning to flower with more species opening each week through October.
Other displays feature in the conservatory and on the new container deck. Flowers and plants will be available to purchase through John Newton’s Floral Design Studio located in the gardens. I’ll be there to answer your gardening questions. Bring your friends or group to share with us this special] spring moment when the earth flowers like a living rainbow.
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