Not all flowers are special enough to have their own vase, but the tulip is one of the lucky few. Mary Queen of Scots is said to have started the trend of bringing the flower indoors in Tudor times, ordering pagoda-shaped tulip vases from Delft to arrange the stems in, some of which reached over a metre and a half tall. Today, two of her creations are on display in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, and now they're coming back into fashion in a big way.
Why do tulips have special vases?
At the time of their creation, the distinctive tulip vases were designed to highlight the extremely high value of the tulip. In the 16th and 17th centuries, giving the gift of a tulip amounted to offering one’s whole fortune to the receiver. At that time, the tulip bulb trade was highly speculative and canalside houses in Amsterdam could be bought and sold for the price of a single bulb. By placing one stem in each 'spout', the tulip vase made it possible to emphasise the value of each individual flower.
Today, these vases are becoming more and more sought after for their history, their aesthetic value and because they are an excellent way to extend the life span of a tulip bouquet. Arranging each stem individually helps the flower retain its upright shape, even once it's taken on too much water and has begun to droop.
Contemporary tulip vase
The photo shows three modern variations on the original single stem tulip vase. The vase in the top right, known as the coral vase, comes from Pols Potten. Its organic shape is well suited to a contemporary arrangement of tulips. The bottom left vase comes from Dutch design store &Klevering. Capable of holding seven stems, it suits all lovers of symmetry. The one on the top left is a vase from our photographer’s own collection. eBay is full of second, third or even fourth-hand vases — they may not all be to your taste, but sometimes their eccentricity that adds to their appeal.
To find out more about the flower itself, read our article on the tulip, full of information and care tips.