Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing Up: Tulips - the colorful, fragrant heralds of spring

I don't know about you but I've never been so excited to hang a new calendar on the wall! Gone in the blink of an eye, November and December seem like a distant memory already as I sweep the last of the glitter and pine needles out of the corners of the living room. It was a little embarrassing that the kids noticed that I was “grouping” the Christmas decor on the dining room table on New Years' day with the rubbermaid containers lurking around the corner. I was trying to be discreet, but there was part of me that was as excited to see it go as I was to put it up.

I don't know what I would do without four distinct seasons. Right now I just feel like having everything clean and simple — just like the landscape. So, out with the glitter and the excess of Christmas decor and back to a clean slate and fresh start.

OK. Now that I've accomplished that and all smooth surfaces are gleaming, the counter needs one of my favorite things. I call them 'hope in a vase' — tulips. These energy-packed little mood changers continue to grow while in a vase of water and brighten a room like nothing else can. In fact, according to a 10-month behavioral research study conducted by Rutgers, the presence of flowers triggers happy emotions and heightens feelings of life satisfaction. The study also found that people tend to place flowers in areas of their home that are open to visitors suggesting that flowers are to be shared.

Tulips are known as the heralds of spring. Along with crocus and daffodils, tulips are one of the first flowers to blossom each year, sometimes while there is still snow on the ground.

Brightening your home with tulips is effortless. Tuck a few tulips into a small vase and put it in a place you go often — on your bathroom counter, the corner of your kitchen sink or nightstand. A single tulip in a little vase can be as pretty as a large arrangement of them. Fill a pitcher or favorite vase with tulips and place on the dining room table or an end table in the living room.

It's best to purchase or clip tulips when the buds are still closed. They will last longer and you get the added pleasure of watching them open.

Once you get them home, fill your vase with water, cut the stems with a pair of sharp scissors or pruning shears and immediately place them in the vase. Or better yet, cut the tulips under water. This prevents air bubbles from blocking water trying to flow up the stem and will increase their longevity.

Tulips are dynamic and cut flowers will continue to elongate in the vase. Kids will enjoy watching them “grow.”

Tulips are available in a wide variety of colors, from the truest white to all shades of yellow and red to the deepest purple, almost black. Almost 4000 varieties have been developed. In the language of flowers, the tulip means “perfect love.” Specific colors, however, can have other meanings:

• orange: energy and passion

• pink: affection and caring

• purple: royalty

• red: declaration of love

• white: heaven, newness and purity

• yellow: hopelessly in love, cheerful thoughts and sunshine

• variegated tulips: beautiful eyes

Did you know tulips are a member of the lily family? They originated from the northern temperate regions of the Old World stretching from the Mediterranean to Japan, but were most abundant on the steppes of Central Asia. The Viennese ambassador to Turkey introduced the Western world to tulips when he sent some seeds home to Austria. The European tulip industry began with the arrival of a shipment of tulip bulbs from Constantinople (now Istanbul) at Antwerp in 1562. Tulipmania consumed the Netherlands in the 17th century. Single bulbs sometimes brought several thousand dollars until the government was forced to intervene. Today, the Netherlands is still the center of tulip culture.