I’m currently reading Anna Pavord’s “The Tulip” – it’s been around for a while, but I thought since I’ve spent much of last autumn planting over 100 tulips in my own garden it was about time I found out about them.
What a lovely book. It’s quite heavy-going, I find, largely because the scholardship is so dense: but once you’ve got into it, you can’t help but be drawn in by the extraordinary story of this unique flower.
It’s evident from the first page how well-educated Anna Pavord is: I’d always suspected it of her, but now I have proof that she not only speaks French, but 17th century French at that: the only trouble is she does rather assume her readership is as erudite as she is, and leaves great passages untranslated. I’m lucky enough to speak near-fluent modern French – but I find this is beyond me.
Never mind: it’s not necessary to enjoy the book. It’s full of little amazements: did you know, for example, that the French had their own version of tulipomania a full century or so before the Dutch? Or that the Turkish, who began the tulip craze, spurned the traditional European goblet shape (or more accurately, didn’t even consider it in the first place) for the acutely waisted shapes only seen these days in Parrot tulips and the like?
Anna Pavord is one of those people who has always existed in the horticultural firmament. I can only wish I were half as good – or indeed as successful – a garden writer as she. I can’t make out a professional gardening connection, but she’s one of the best kind of gardeners: that is, one who has learned her craft through her own personal experience. She spent 30 years restoring a garden in Dorset before moving and starting again. She made her name with this book, though she has several others to her name, all sharing her particular brand of intelligence and insight. She just seems to be a true enthusiast and scholar of all things garden-related.
It’s made me see tulips in an entirely different light. I’m looking forward to my spring blooms all the more for reading this: a whole new layer of knowledge and pleasure to add to what I hope will be a wonderful display.