Some of you were not enamoured of the buds of Tulipa ‘Rococo’ when I featured them in a post three weeks ago. The gnarled, contorted points were variously described as ‘prehistoric’, ‘like warts growing on smooth skin’ and ‘not looking very healthy’. Such comments were completely accurate and caused no offence. But I knew that those ugly ducklings would turn not into swans, but into glorious, colourful, flamboyant parrots. Of all the new tulips I tried and tested this year, Tulipa ‘Rococo’ was the most sensational, proving its garden-worthiness with a long display of dragon-red and emerald-green flowers flushed with gold and burgundy. I challenge you, Dear Readers, to be repulsed by them now.
Responding to images of the tulip’s flowers in bud, a positive voice belonged to Cathy, who writes the charming blog Garden Dreaming at Châtillon. She told me that a friend had photographed ‘Rococo’ petals after they had dropped onto a piece of coloured card, making the resultant images into greetings cards.
A lot can happen in the garden during a week in May, and my tulips went from boom to bust in fewer than 5 days. As I swept still perky petals into a zinc bucket, away from snails’ slimy jaws, I was reminded of Cathy’s friend’s idea and arranged a handful of the fiery flotsam across a slab of slate. Placed on their fronts the backs of the petals (actually a mix of sepals and petals) are relatively muted, revealing bruised shades reminiscent of those human muscle charts that used to hang in school biology labs. Arranged on their backs, the strength of the flower’s pigment is so strong that even digital technology struggles to capture its brilliance. The colours are operatically intense.
Cathy said that she kept her friend’s card for two years. I am not remotely surprised. Who would not be beguiled by the transformation of these extraordinary flowers?
Bulbs of Tulipa ‘Rococo’ will be available from Sarah Raven in autumn and should be planted in November.