Morton Hall 2020

Our 2020 Tulip Festival at Morton Hall may have been cancelled this year, but the garden’s owner, Anne Olivieri shares a little of their magic with you from a distance.

Watch the video to enjoy a stroll round the gardens at Morton Hall, find out more in Anne’s blog and for the names of some of the featured tulips check out the gallery.


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Video courtesy of Jack Turner

The tulip’s conquest of western Europe began in the Netherlands: In the mid-16th century, travellers brought back bulbs from the Ottoman Empire. The Turks had been cultivating tulips as early as 1000 AD and adopted them as an emblem of the court. The correct name for tulips is the Persian word ‘lale’, but there was a confusion with the Persian and Turkish words for ‘turban’. This is how the misnomer was created and adhered to ever since.

In the Dutch Golden age, tulips caused the first major financial bubble. They became the ultimate status symbol. During ‘Tulipmania’, which lasted from 1634 to 1637, just one bulb of a desirable tulip could fetch the same price as a house in the best quarter of Amsterdam.

In England, tulips were introduced in the 1630s, which is probably why they don’t feature in Shakespeare’s works.

Nowadays, tulips are widely available and affordable. However, they have not lost their magical pull. Tulip festivals are celebrated in many countries. The Netherlands, where tulips are bred and sold in billions, host the most important and well-known. However, if you visit Istanbul in April and early May, you will find that more than 20 million tulips have been planted throughout the city for the ‘Lale’ Festival. This tradition goes back to the late 17th to mid-18th century, which was the height of tulip popularity in the Ottoman Empire, as can still be seen in the ceramic decorations of many palaces.

What is tulip magic? I like to compare it to a carnival or New Year’s fireworks. There is a joyful, limitless riot of colour and shapes. All is allowed: the boldest and most outrageous combinations and wild pageants of pattern. It is the ultimate victory over the bleakness of winter.

But tulip festivals are more than celebrations of winter’s end. They are also a great opportunity to see hundreds of different varieties ‘in the flesh’. Beyond colour and shape, there are scent, texture and habit. It can be startling how varieties that look very similar on a catalogue page will appear very diverse when planted next to each other. An ideal opportunity to find the tulip you have been looking for!

Visiting the Tulip Festival at Morton Hall may help you choose your favourite tulips from the displays in borders, pots and vases. There are experts from our partners Bloms Bulbs at hand to advise on varieties and cultivation. However, you will also see how we use tulips in our own style, creating a tapestry in the borders, with carefully chosen colours and patterns. We feel there is a strong connection to costume-making from beautiful fabrics. Partnering with the RSC is therefore a natural choice.

We are very sad that this year’s Tulip Festival will be held in thought only. We hope that you enjoy our tulip impressions and that we will see you at our 2021 Festival from 1 to 3 May.

Those who would like to know more about the Morton Hall style of tulip planting might be interested in ‘Precision Planning’ published in the April issue of the English Garden Magazine.

With very best wishes,

Anne Olivieri

The Tulip Festival at Morton Hall is in support of costume-making at the RSC.

Bloms Bulbs are official bulb supplier to Morton Hall.

Join us at Morton Hall Gardens for next year’s Tulip Festival in support of costume-making at the RSC 1-3 May 2021.

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