The only new blooms this month though, are my tulips.
I don't like tulips. I've never grown them before and only got them this year because when we were are the December Crafts Fair, my son conned me into it. I'm a daffodil person myself, and this bunch of bulbs hasn't changed my opinion much. They're quite jolly, and I've made them look as good as I can with sneaky camera angles. But they've been frustrating. They're dwarf tulips - just about the right size for the balcony. But some are far more dwarf than others, making the container look odd. And they've all come out at different moments and lasted a relatively short time. They look great at the bud and "just open" stage, but half an hour of sun sends them blowsy. So that I now have two containers with some tall, some short plants; some buds, some flowers, some that need deadheading. And all in a matter of days.
I'm sure they work in a garden where you can plant large quantities. And one of the trips on my wish list is a biking tour round the Dutch bulb fields at tulip time. But on the balcony, I think I'll save the space for other things.
Not everyone has always thought like me though. In the 17th century speculation in tulip bulbs brought down the Dutch stock market.
The first modern stock exchange was opened in Amsterdam at the beginning of the 17th century, not long after the tulip had been introduced into western Europe from the Ottoman Empire (the word tulip apparently has its roots in the Turkish word for turban). The colours of the flowers were qualitatively different from any other flowers then available, and they were soon very much in fashion. First the wealthy and then the middle classes started to buy the bulbs, and prices soared. And then in the 1630s people began to speculate in tulip bulbs, buying them for immediate resale. Prices reached ridiculous levels - the all time record was the sale of a rare Violetten Admirael van Enkhuizen bulb for 5,200 florins, but 2,000 was relatively common. And this when the average annual wage was 150 florins. Tales are told of unwary travellers who, failing to recognise the bulbs and believing them to be some kind of onion, picked them up to eat and found themselves thrown into jail for theft by the irate ex-owners.
Investment in the bulbs reached crazy proportions, many people selling their property or using their life's savings to finance their investment, and by 1636 the bulbs were traded on stock exchanges around Holland. Overseas investors also cashed in on the trend.
The period was given the name of tulipomania. Much as I love flowers, I don't think there are any I would bankrupt myself for, even though my husband's comments each time I head for the garden centre might suggest the opposite. But apparently it's happening again, this time in Britain with the snowdrop. According to an article in The Independent, bulbs have been selling on E-bay for around £128 each. Crazy...
But in 1637, the market collapsed. At an auction the buyers just stopped buying. The market panicked, investors started to sell, and prices plummeted. Huge amounts of money were lost and many people went bankrupt, leading to an economic recession.
Explore some more ...
Tulipomania - Wikipedia
The Tulipomania - An Investing Bubble
When the tulip bubble burst - Businessweek