We had a couple of very frosty mornings this week.
My tulips looked like they had been tossed and turned at sea. Their stems curved at bent at alarming angles. They looked like they were still swishing in waves. Tulips are nothing, if not dramatic.
They looked ship-wrecked.
I often think of songs or poems as I wander around the garden.
This morning the tulips made me think of Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’. ‘The Tempest’ is a strange tale of shipwreck, magic, enslavement and release.
The central character, Prospero, has been banished by his people to a strange island, which he inhabits with his daughter, Miranda, a fairy sprite, Ariel, and a devilish slave, Caliban. Prospero dominates Miranda, Ariel and Caliban, bending their thoughts and abilities to carry out his will. Prospero seeks to avenge his former enemies, using Ariel’s magic to conjure a storm, aiming to wreck his enemies’ ship. There are a handful of survivors, who wash up on the island. Miranda encounters Ferdinand, one of the shipwrecked sailors. Her eyes are opened to a different way of life. There ensues a power-struggle, a little drug-induced debauchery and a justified rebellion. Prospero has to accept that his domination cannot continue. The play ends with him breaking his wand, tossing away his magic books, and asking to be released from his self-created struggle.
The parrot tulip ‘Rasta Parrot’ looked bent over and shackled by the frost. Listening; perhaps dreaming. He reminded me of poor Caliban.
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.Caliban, Act III Scene ii
Parrot tulips have featherings of colour bleeding outwards from the centre of each petal. They also have a ruffled texture, with curls and fringing at the edges of the petals. Each one is totally unique. They create their own shape.
‘Cerise Parrot’ was one of the first tulips out, and after a few days of glorious sunshine, it threw back its wings. It is showing its central stile, and its petals are like billowing skirts. There is a smoky purple colouring at the heart of the flower. A bruised heart.
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong
Hark! now I hear them,—Ding-dong, bell.Ariel, Act I, Scene ii
With damage, there is the possibility of transformation.
Frosted tulips can look utterly doomed, utterly devastated.
But then the sun comes out.
They raise their heads and straighten their backs.
Here are the glorious ‘Rasta Parrot’ tulips, each one making its own shape.
When I was choosing tulips for this bed, I wanted the most vibrant colours.
The cherry red of Tulip ‘Attilla’s Graffiti’, the deepest ‘Orange Cassini’, and the swirling, whirling citrus tang of ‘Rasta Parrot’.
The tulips make my heart sing. We are alive.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in ’t!Miranda, Act V, Scene i
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.Prospero, Act IV, Scene ii
I hope you are finding small pleasures, though life is hard. I hope that you are taking time to notice the natural world: its colours and shapes, its rhythms and recovery.
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I aim to bring you little pops of wonder to help you through your day.
I publish one post per week, usually on a Saturday morning, so you can enjoy it with a coffee. Leave a comment below, or feel free to ask a question if you would like more information about any of the tulips featured in this post, or if you would like advice about growing tulips next year. They are easy to grow, and give so much pleasure.