TULIPMANIA IN SINGAPORE
Admiring tulips is a well-established springtime ritual in temperate countries. In the tropics, only in cooled greenhouses can tulips thrive. We had the pleasure of attending the Tulipmania display in Singapore, which was well worth the effort for anyone unable to visit Holland, Türkiye, or any other botanical gardens in cooler climes to get their tulip itch scratched.
top: Alongside the flowers, some displays include eye-shaped amulets known as nazar, which originated in Türkiye and are displayed as protective talismans to ward off the evil eye. Notice the replica of the famous Library of Celcus from Ephesus in the background. below: More Turkish architecture along with balloons familiar to anyone who has been to or even seen pictures of Cappadocia.
GARDENS BY THE BAY
The largest glass greenhouse in the world is the Flower Dome at Singapore’s spectacular Gardens by the Bay. There are a variety of special exhibitions held alongside the permanent displays housed there. But the most popular on the calendar is undoubtedly their tulip show, held annually in April and May. After a year off because of the pandemic, 2023 marked the 9th edition of the Gardens by the Bay tulip exhibition.
AVOID THE CROWDS
We visited their tulip display in 2016, while passing through the hub city and it was impressive. But our timing was nowhere near optimal. We found out afterwards that we happened to visit on the first Saturday of the display period. It was very crowded and navigating the pathways while ducking under waving errant selfie-sticks while trying to keep out of other folks’ photos was challenging. All of that distraction while jostling along in the stream of enthusiastic visitors reduced the overall effect of the experience. This time we were determined to enjoy the show properly.
below: The tulip display a few years earlier, seen at dusk as the crowds thinned.
Most of the previous tulip displays in the Flower Dome were highlighting the Dutch varieties of tulips, but this year the show leaned into the Turkish angle, showing varieties found in that part of the world. Holland may be known as the tulip capital of the world, but it was only in the 16th century that the first tulip bulbs were brought to Holland from the Ottoman Empire.
THE ORIGIN OF TULIPS
Tulips came from the steppes of Central Asia, mostly in what is now Iran and Türkiye. In fact, the name “tulip” was derived from the shape of the flower that resembled the turban of Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. It came from the Turkish word tülbend, which itself comes from the Persian dulbănd for turban.
below center: We were impressed to see pallets of flowers being brought out to freshen up the displays, even though to our eyes, none of the flowers seemed decrepit.
LESS CROWDS, MORE VARIETY
We visited the exhibition on a weekday in order to avoid crowds. This time we saw very few selfie sticks and tripods. We enjoyed seeing varieties new to us, such as wild tulips and crown/coronet tulips, which were a departure from the cup-shaped “normal” tulips and the popular lily-flowered tulips. Thirty varieties of tulips were showcased along with other flowers from the region.