Although the tulip (Tulipa) is synonymous with the Dutch, it is not endemic to Holland, and comes originally from central Asia. The botanist, Carolus Clusius (real name, Charles de l'Ecluse, 1526 to 1609) introduced the tulip to Holland during the 16th century. Today it is one among an array of springtime flowers that constitute a thriving export industry for Holland.
In 1593, Clusius accepted the position of honorary professor of botany at the University of Leiden. In Holland, Clusius created a botanical garden at the university, planting items from his personal collection of tulip bulbs. In 1594, the historic first tulip bulbs bloomed in the Netherlands. Clusius disapproved of the commercialization of tulips. He declined to sell his flowers to those who would make a profit reselling them, and lost many of his tulip bulbs to theft. Tulipomania, a phenomenon of market speculation that drove the price of tulips to new heights, happened after Clusius' passing. The tulip speculation market collapsed in 1637, singeing the fingertips of the urban speculators that hoped to profit handsomely. Today, tulips are among the world's most popular flowers. Plant tulip bulbs around September, in well-drained, loose sandy soil. Bulbs should be about 6 inches underground, pointed ends up, and 5 inches or so apart. Select a sunny area with some shade for best results in the spring.
Growers in Holland created hybrids from crocuses that grew in the wilds of the Alps and the Pyrenees and other areas of Europe. The giant Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus) is a springtime flower, like the tulip. It blooms in early spring, and by the end of the season, it is dormant. The purple or white flowers are large and shaped like cups. Crocuses prefer full sun to partial shade, and they are low-maintenance flowers. The Dutch yellow crocus (Crocus flavus) is actually native to Greece, Romania and northwest Turkey. It is smaller than the giant Dutch crocus, and makes a colorful ornamental plant.
Holland's 70-acre Keukenhof ("The Garden of Europe") in Lisse, is home to millions of springtime flowers, growing in the world's largest flower garden. Among them are tulips and daffodils (Narcissus). Daffodils are native to Spain and Portugal. They are among the numerous bulb flowers that growers in Holland hybridized and now export worldwide. Create your own daffodil corner. Plant daffodil bulbs in the fall, in well-drained soil and preferably in full sun. The bulbs should be about 6 inches apart, and around 8 inches deep, with the pointed ends up.