SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): The Netherlands is synonymous with the tulip, but you may be surprised to learn that the beloved flower is native to Central Asia and Turkey.
For the next few weeks until May 21, the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay will pay tribute to the Turkish roots of the bloom with Tulipmania: Origins Of The Tulip.
It is the ninth edition of the Tulipmania festival, which began in 2013. The most recent iteration in 2021 focused on Kazakhstan, where tulips are thought to have first appeared millions of years ago.
Tulipmania 2023 was created in partnership with the Turkish Embassy, and will showcase 54,000 tulip bulbs across 30 varieties.
They include the familiar crown-shaped and lily-flowered variants, as well as exotic species cultivated from tulip species originating in Turkey, such as the Tulipa Acuminata, which is characterised by narrow, pointed petals that resemble a cupped hand.
The cultivation of tulips in Turkey stretches all the way back to the influential Ottoman Empire, which rose to prominence in the 14th century and came to an end only in 1922.
Over the intervening years, the tulip became deeply embedded in the fabric of Turkish culture and history. Today, it is the country’s national flower, and its motif can be seen in traditional ceramics, carpets and gravestones.
In homage to the tulip’s enduring role in Turkey, the flowers of Tulipmania are set against miniature renditions of iconic Turkish architecture, such as the Galata Tower in Istanbul, which was destroyed and rebuilt in the 14th century, and the Library of Celsus in Izmir province, which was built in the 2nd century.
The first batch of flowers for Tulipmania arrived from the Netherlands – the world’s largest producer of tulips – last Saturday, while the second batch arrived on Tuesday.
Over the last week, a 30-man team worked through nights – between the Flower Dome’s closing and opening hours, from 9pm to 9am – to painstakingly plant each tulip and have the display ready for opening day on Friday.
Gardens by the Bay’s senior assistant director of conservatory operations, Mihkaail Ng, tells The Straits Times that the preparations were timed precisely to ensure the flowers are in bloom not just on launch day, but also throughout the display’s one-month period.
“We had to determine the exact period when our overseas suppliers needed to send over the tulips, and when our in-house researchers had to start growing the plants to complement tulips – in this case, dianthus, hollyhock and zinnia,” he said.
“For example, tulips have to be planted on the day of arrival and will start blooming five to seven days after they are planted into the flower field,” Ng added.
Another delivery of flowers is expected midway through the exhibition to refresh the display.