Plant Literate #4: Tarda Tulip

I love the way Gustavus Adolphus College lives on top of a hill. I love its river valley, its view of the fog that lifts off the moving water in the morning, its wide skies. I love the highest pane of the highest window on the highest floor of Old Main, especially at dusk. I love its crab apple trees. I love its open lawns. I love its sidewalks. And even more than these, I love the friendships I formed as I strolled those sidewalks, reclined on those lawns, studied under those trees, stared out from that window, and hiked up and down that hill toward or away from that valley the four years I was a student there. Gustavus gave me an education, yes. But it also gave me friends who are as bright and assured and open as flowers. We see each other less now than we did then, but when we reunite, it is always always spring.

Some of them joined me for a picnic last night among the thousands of tulips that are up at the Arb. Don't get me wrong: I can point out a tulip. Almost every Minnesotan can. But it is an easy recognition, like looking at a passing woman's smile and deciding she is kind. You do not know her name unless you ask. You do not remember her name unless she is somehow different from all the other names, all the other kind faces. So when you do ask and remember and meet up again and become friends and support each other and know without much conversation that you will always be a part of each other's lives, you have found something that is no longer a tulip, five letters, pink or purple or orange or red. You have found a tarda tulip. A tulip that grows star-shaped. A tulip that is an open-palmed hand. You walk up to them, these flowers, your own arms extended, and you know you have found blooms that will glow in each season of your life.


  1. I was at the Arb on Tuesday. Breathtaking!

  2. I know! The blossoms this time of year simply bewitch me.


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