OratorioGreig's Tulip
'Oratorio'


"Greenwood's border & orchard's air
Unless some tulip cheek be there
Can charm not."

-Hafiz
(1325-1389)

   

"Oratorio is a real head turner" says about fifteen bulb catalogs, apparently repeating by rote a cliche phrase handed to them by some wholesaler the catalog dealers held in common.

When a copywriter is composing an advertisement for the flap of a novel, if the best he or she can come up with is something fatuously generic such as, "A real page turner!" or "A real publishing event!" or anything similarly "real," it means the ad-writer couldn't find even one praiseworthy quality or plot element specifically about that given book. Such cliches translate: "Undistinguished & indisguishable potboiler for people who move their lips when they read."

So I hate to see the equivalent cliche recurringly imposed on a worthwhile tulip, though I suppose it could be argued by elitists that the best species tulips are subtler than Tulipa greigii with its many cultivars so extreme in coloration.

Still, I cannot accept that this flower deserves no better assessment than the cloying "real head turner," so that were I sufficiently influential, I would insist the catalog copywriters come up with something better for 'Oratorio' than a cliche of the type that might with similar imprecision be bestowed randomly upon any of a thousand bright flowers or even circus fat ladies.

I didn't quite obtain this particular tulip purposely. One day in a nursery, a lone worker while the owner was away for the day had taken a "while the cat's away" approach to life. He had gotten roaring drunk, despite that it wasn't yet noon. He buttonholed me for a meanderingly personal fit of loquacity, which I listened to attentively with considerable amusement. I remember I bought a couple of stepping stones, & as I was leaving, the friendly tipsy nursery worker handed me for free, as reward for my attentiveness, an unlabled pot with fat striped foliage poking out of the dirt.

Recognizing the striped leaves, I said, "Oh thanks! It's some kind of greigii tulip!"

Since his boss's name was Greg, my tipsy chum completely misunderstood what I'd said. I didn't bother to correct him when he assured me, "Yes, but Greg won't mind if I give you one."

These were offered four in a pot, so I brought them home & added all four to the front edge of a drift of 'Red Riding Hood' & 'Chopin' tulips of the same species. I had to wait for the blooms to appear before I figured out what they were. It seemed to me they had to be 'Oratorio.'

The name alludes to the Oratorio of an opera, which I suppose acknowledges the dramatic excesses notable for this species.

'Oratorio' has rose-pink or salmon-pink flowers with a blush of pale yellow-green on the outside of the petals, & black deep in the heart of the cup.

Oh, & it's a real head-turner, too.

   



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