Time for Tulips

Plant Tulipa montana to mark the journey Paul made to bring the good news across Turkey and across the centuries

The mere hint of a crispness to the autumn air signals time for tulips! Seasons are connected intricately for gardeners. Summer yielding to fall sets our minds rattling with rakes and bare branches. Yet we think successively beneath winter’s snowdrifts to imagine the drifts of color displaying next spring. Tulips lead the way in covering the garden with color, bright, bold heralds of a new season, renewing our hearts with the good news that the garden has come back to life. Bulbs must be purchased now. Those in the north may begin planting them and those of us in the south may sneak them into the back of the refrigerator produce drawer for a “fake chill” needed to produce the best blooms.

While mesmerized by the hybrid choices in color and style, imagine for a moment that Paul’s journey through Asia Minor to spread the good news of the Savior might have been a tiptoe through the tulips. Not for ease of travel, of course…

After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phyrgia, strengthening all the disciples. Acts 18:23

…but in the sense that these joy-proclaiming flowers originated from the mountainous areas of Turkey where he and his friends walked the miles to greet the people with the Gospel and give support. Wild tulips refer to the species that have not been hybridized, handed down from the harsh conditions of their Middle Eastern heritage. One of these bulbs, Tulipa montana, is included in the NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, among the “native Plants” of the landscape of Asia Minor and Macedonia.

Tulipa montana, one tulip species (Hebrew, possibly nitzanium) native to Turkey, Syria and Palestine, continues to grow wild in the region; though tulips are commonly associated with the Netherlands after the “tulip mania” of the 1600s, when the genus was imported and preposterously propagated. A member of the Liliaceae family, tulips sprout several elongated pale green leaves during the late winter or early spring rains. A central stem with a solitary, prominent tightly-cupped blossom emerges, growing to about 12 inches tall. The folded bud, faintly-colored, was thought to resemble a man’s turban-wrapped head; the name tulip is a derivation of turban. As the flower petals open, their color becomes more vibrant. Tulipa montana is a bright red flower with a black center. After blooming, the bulbs, or geophytes, show their adaptation to Mediterranean dry summers by reserving nutrients in the fleshy underground bulb, allowing leaves to wither, remaining dormant in the dry season. Tulips cover the mountainsides along with other wildflowers in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean area; though Paul did not describe the flower-filled fields in which he journeyed, tulips may be referenced as spring “flowers” in the Old Testament (Song of Songs 2:12).
—excerpt from NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible

Plantings of Tulipa montana have been located at the Denver Botanic Gardens, though may be hard to find when purchasing bulbs for your garden. Becky Heath of Brent & Becky’s Bulbs outlines a complete species list of wild tulips to help guide you in selecting these ancient beauties. Also enjoy Mariana Greene’s  Dallas Morning News column today, which woke me up to tulip time this morning, featuring wild tulips from Colorblends.

I look forward to finding a place for plenty of these flowers in our garden, not as a symbol of spring, but as a marker of the many miles Paul walked—his letters, prayers and devotion making their way across centuries to bring me the good news.

“Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent….Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin
Acts 13:26, 38-39


Photo Caption: Tulipa montana, considered the tulip of the Bible, photo from “Tulip Species in Cultivation,” a presentation at the 5th World Tulip Summit by Richard Wilford of Kew Royal Botanic Gardens (graphics added)

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