In Bud II

Reading time 4 minutes

It snowed today in Central London.

From my desk in a muggy office I anxiously check the BBC weather website to see if my seaside garden is experiencing the same sleety conditions. At 3°C the night temperature teeters on the right side of danger, but it’s close. I dwell on how cruel it would be to lose treasured plants during winter’s last gasp. As I leave the building a blast of chill air hits my face and makes me flinch. I can’t recall a frostier finale to April.

Watching the garden move towards spring has been like watching a film in slow motion, or recounting one of those bad dreams where one never quite reaches one’s destination. It has been dawdling and drawn-out, although not painful, yet. Cold is a powerful preservative and anaesthetic, putting a break on plants’ development, delaying flowering and keeping blooms fresh for longer. Never has our magnolia, our sophora or our Kerria japonica bloomed continually for four months uninterrupted. Nor have I enjoyed such a long season among the daffodils. Spring has been like a cruise on the Rhine; long, languid and leisurely, with time to look back and admire sights that might have passed in a blur any other time.

Tulipa "Rococo", The Watch House, April 2016

And so, via an appropriately ponderous route, I arrive at today’s subjects, the flower buds of Tulipa “Rococo”. I know by reputation that the frilly flowers will ultimately be decadent velvety-red, feathered with scarlet, plum and Chartreuse. From their first emergence through a cover of coarse grit, the buds have been fascinating to observe as they begin to pull away from the cool green leaves, showing flashes of kaleidoscopic colour at their fringes. As parrot tulips go, Tulipa “Rococo” is earlier and shorter than most, making it an ideal candidate for a pot. If that were not recommendation enough, the flowers are also scented. This being my first time I have planted the bulbs in small, tall Long-Toms so that I can move them about to find good colour companions later.

It snowed today in Central London, but in my garden it was totally tropical.

Do check back on this post to see what happens when the buds eventually unfurl.

Tulipa "Rococo", The Watch House, April 2016

Categories: Bulbs, Flowers, Foliage, Our Coastal Garden, Photography, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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23 comments On "In Bud II"

  1. Got to have some of those next year Dan, those buds look almost prehistoric. Look forward to seeing the buds unfurled.

    Mrs. P.

    1. They are most unusual aren’t they? I thought a little conch-like too? I imagine you will be ‘over’ tulips by the time you return from Keukenhof and ready for a taste of summer? Have a splendid time.

  2. Yes, I also cannot wait to see them fully open. In bud they look, hm… not very healthy, like warts growing on smooth skin… sorry Dan but this was the first impression I got of them. Sorry for your cold weather.

    1. Oh dear. I am not sure I can ever view them in quite the same way again 😉. Looking at the buds objectively I suppose they are a little contorted. However the ugly chicks will soon become psychedelic parrots and I am sure I will adore them 😀

  3. Hello Dan, I find your hands across the ocean view of flowers, landscapes, weather and life in general, so special and different. In these Maine, gentle, inland mountains, we average -10ºF to -20ºF below zero with snow. I started planting tulips and all things for Spring, forty five years ago in a wild garden, un-manicured, successional way. I, too, love Rococco, all of the Parrot tulips and just about all and everything. Usually I select the tallest ones in catalogs because it’s fun to use them in bouquets. In my eyes, any and all tulips are remarkably splendid. I can never have too many. I am humbled by plant breeders and growers who have made them available for all of us to enjoy. Overtime, most have multiplied growing into bigger clumps. Sometimes the younger bulbs have perfect, cake size, flowers. Rococco will be returning, I hope, for his second Spring. Tulips are mostly all still green. Your pot display of bulbs was beautiful. Keep up the good work. With best wishes to all, Alda Stich

    1. 45 years of Tulip love . . . .your spring flowers must be a joy to see and also to anticipate through the winter, like the pending arrival of old friends.

    2. Hi Alda. I have lovely pictures in my mind now of a meadow bejewelled with tulips and an enormous bunch of gem coloured flowers being tied into a bouquet. I dream of having enough tulips to pick: with the number at my disposal I cannot bear to cut them unless they get snapped in the wind. I can imagine “Rococo” is a gift for a good flower arranger. We are visiting a garden this weekend where Rembrandt tulips are planted through an orchard. I always enjoy seeing those baroque flowers floating in a sea of grass. Best Wishes to you too. Dan

  4. I too thought there was something wrong when I first looked. Of course, on closer inspection, they are simply amazing and thanks for sharing Dan.
    As to weather, we’re still in shorts and t shirts with very little rain to be had. Last decent fall was in January which is nothing unusual given our location but still desperate for some. Thankfully I don’t rely on the weather for an income any more.
    Back to tulips, the local generic nursery are selling them, and hyacinths, but I just can’t bring myself to buy any. Wrong plant, wrong place, wrong time.
    Looking forward to your next photos.

    1. The idea of wearing shorts and t shirt is pretty attractive to me right now. I am still in winter coat, long socks and boots. However I don’t envy your lack of rain.

      You are quite right not to plant anything that will be out of place in your garden. Restraint is equal to patience in the list of gardeners’ qualities. Sadly I lack both, but struggle along 😉

  5. Lovely tulip buds Dan! A friend of mine photographed ‘Rococo’ petals individually after they had dropped onto a piece of coloured card and used it as a greetings card to send me. It is still in the living room 2 years later! I must try planting it here (I’ve always thought we were not flashy enough for it!) I’ve been enjoying the slow spring so much – usually ours flashes past in a blast of heat around this time. But I have a young magnolia that is mysteriously dying back in all the rain.

    1. I am sorry to hear about your magnolia Cathy. There are so many tree diseases that are spreading about at the moment I can’t imagine what it might be. Perhaps just waterlogging? Sad nonetheless. What a great idea for a card though. You have set me a challenge now! I will let you know in due course if it’s worth trying. I am sure ‘Rococo’ would look wonderful in your garden.

    1. Do you know, I was sniff testing all my tulips at the weekend, and “Queensday”, which is more orange than any orange I have seen before, actually smells of oranges. I had to do a double sniff! I am not sure if my brain is tricking me into getting citrus notes because of the colour, but the scent is really sweet and zesty. Hopefully “Rococo” will not smell of parrots (whatever they smell of!).🤓

  6. ‘There once was an ugly duckling’ comes to mind………………. Watching this site with more than my usual interest – I’m intrigued to say the least!!

    1. Thanks Sally. The buds are looking more and more exciting as they begin to open. If I were to name this tulip now I’d call it “Red Dragon” as the flowers are blood red, cool green and scaly-looking!

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