World traveler and Tulip historian at Quarryhill
Tulips are a harbinger of spring in Central Asia. Each spring in Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley, women gather armfuls of brilliant red tulips from the surrounding mountain slopes and sell them at the roadside along with bunches of wild rhubarb.
With high passes free of snow, springtime was also when merchants set out along the Silk Road, that ancient network of trails that once linked the imperial empires of Rome and China.
It was along the Silk Road that tulips traveled west. They are mentioned in 14th century Persian verse; later when they reached the Ottoman Empire they caused such a sensation, the Sultan in Constantinople ordered a tax to be levied on the bulb.
Tulips became the favorite motif for Isnik tiles, and during a lavish spring reception at Topkapi Palace, tulips entranced the Dutch Ambassador, who took some bulbs back to Holland. There they caused a phenomenon named Tulipmania which caused markets to crash. Today in Europe and the U.S., tulips are a multi-million dollar business.
On Saturday, March 1, 10:30 to noon, Angela Neal Grove will give a presentation at Quarryhill Botanical Garden, where she will talk about the colorful and sensational history of tulips and their long journey from the Central Asian mountains to Sonoma. In spring of 2010, Grove set out along the Silk Road as spring unfolded across China and Central Asia and published two books on this journey.
Cost is $10 for Quarryhill members, $15 for non-members. Space is limited. To reserve your seat, call 996-3166. Quarryhill Botanical Garden is located at 12841 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen.