(The best place to see broken tulips today is at the annual show of the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society, a tradition that dates back to 1836. Our friend and fellow-member John Snocken sent us this report on the 2006 show.)
It may seem strange to many people that Tulips should be shown and judged against one another at all. However the traditions of the English Florists Tulip are kept alive by the members of our Society who each year bring their cherished blooms to Wakefield for just one day in May.
There are cups and trophies to be won at the Show, and yet there is no fierce competitiveness. The overall attitude is one of celebration in the joy of seeing so many good blooms all in one place; putting on a good display for the many visitors who come each year just to marvel at Flames and Feathers and Breeders all in neat rows sitting up ready for inspection in beer bottles. It does look much better than it sounds.
The classes call for anything from twelve down to a single bloom, and cover the three groups: Bizarre, Rose and Bybloemen. The blooms are judged for the quality of the markings and against the standards of perfection set down in the nineteenth century. The beer bottles are good receptacles for this because it is the inside of the bloom that is judged for the most part. Size and condition are taken into consideration, but it is a fact that the finest markings do come from the smaller bulbs which subsequently produce smaller blooms.
I am sure that the majority of visitors simply enjoy the spectacle, and there are also a number of classes for non-English tulips, so the hall is really full of colour. This year was particularly good and there were plenty of entries and the benches were full.
From a personal perspective it is the pinnacle of my Tulip year. I have quite a number of visitors to my collection, but nothing beats the Show as a great Tulip spectacle. It does not seem so long ago that I made my first journey to a show with just a couple of blooms. Now I take about 80 and try and show in all the classes; and it really is about the taking part and not the winning, but there is now some more silverware on my shelf.
(To learn more, read our “Primer on Broken Tulips” which includes a list of the true broken tulips we offer. We also offer one English florist tulip in its unbroken or “breeder” form, the wonderful brown ‘James Wild’.)