Bulb Porn

Reading time 6 minutes

Each year, ‘order bulbs’ goes on my to-do list in July and each year it is still there in early September. By then there will be an asterisk placed either side of the entry to emphasise the urgency of the task. Yet for some reason I never get around to ordering when I should and it’s then a race against time to get my narcissi planted before I jet off to the Far East. Tulips must wait until I return in November. In the meantime the bulb catalogues stack up in the library, goading me with lascivious images of titilating tulips and naughty narcissi. This is bulb porn, and the nurserymen know I will succumb eventually. (Worst of all is that persistent Madame Sarah Raven, who keeps taunting me with new versions of the same catalogue, each featuring an increasingly voluptuous selection of blooms. When that fails Madame starts offering me discounts until I finally give in.)

Each year I also promise myself that I will purchase fewer bulbs, and of course I don’t do that either. In fact I’ve purchased 50% more this year, which is a good result as initially I was heading for 100%. Even I had to admit that was a bit silly.

Inspired by a glossy page in this month’s Gardens Illustrated, where garden designer Hugo Bugg had chosen a small selection of spring bulbs in shades of white, yellow, mahogany and antique peach, I set about building on that colour theme to create sufficient interest for my garden throughout the months of March, April and May. I have stopped taking any notice of what the catalogues suggest in the way of flowering times, as it’s all about when you plant and what the weather does. This spring, following The Beast from the East everything flowered at once whether it was planned to do so in March or May.

From last year’s order I called again on a few bulbs that I particularly liked, including tulips ‘Purissima Design’ (above), ‘Garant’, ‘Big Brother’ and the sublimely lovely ‘Stunning Apricot’. I am reintroducing favourites I’ve missed such as tulips ‘Lasting Love’, ‘Dom Pedro, ‘Belle Epoque’ and zany parrot tulip ‘Rococo’ (below), since their unique colours will work in my new scheme – just. But there must always be new varieties and I’ve chosen several this year: among the daffodils will be ‘Katie Heath’, a small narcissus with a pinkish trumpet, and ‘Altruist’, a most unusual flower with peach petals and short, carrot-coloured trumpets. There are a handful of lilies on my order too, although these will follow the tulips in early June if planted in autumn. One I’ve plumped for is ‘Forever Susan’, a lily that produces glowing flowers the colour of a charred carrot. This may not sound very appetising, but the pictures look delicious. Another is ‘Whistler’, chosen simply for the unusual combination of faded peach and brownish-red in its petals. Quite special.

As for tulips I couldn’t resist the sulphur-edged petals of ‘Doberman’ nor the flaming form of ‘Helmar’. ‘Green River’ has me totally intrigued. With blooms the colour of bruised salmon streaked with moss green it will either be fabulous or horrible. I will let you know which. I did not select many doubles this year, but ‘Montreaux’ struck me as unusual and worth a try. The tulip’s huge ivory flowers are suffused pink, lending it the appearance of a peony.

I took lusty delight in cutting the pictures out of my bulb catalogues, just as I did when I was a child. Doing so helps me to paint a picture of how my bulb theatre might look in a few months’ time. My love of plants began in the pages of flower catalogues, and there it will continue until the day growers don’t print catalogues anymore. Of course I know the images are staged, the flowers ‘fluffed’ and the colours enhanced, but this is flower porn, and I’m addicted to it for life. TFG.

Categories: Bulbs, Container gardening, Flowers, Musings, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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12 comments On "Bulb Porn"

  1. Bulb porn is the word, those catalogues are just sooo tempting.
    Love your colour combos, thanks for the most enjoyable blog. Do you use a phone or camera for your photos? They are so crisp
    Have a fab trip

  2. I usually order my bulbs in May and this year I haven’t . I wonder why and I wonder if I am the only one. I doubt it. I feel like leaving it till late October this year – I’ll need very strong nerves but previously they’ve sat in my shed getting mouldy between delivery and planting time and I’ve had enough of that so we shall see how my new plan works out. Thanks for the suggestions in your blog – lovely to hear others are seduced by SR too.

  3. Ah yes, Sarah Raven, the supreme temptress. Her combinations of tulips in containers make me swoon. I try to resist, but I cannot and once again I am trying out one of her collections. (To be fair the others I have bought did do very well, so no complaints). But I have tried to go cheaper for narcissus and daffodils as I need to bulk up on those, and I am hoping that unlike the tulips, these will come back year after year. I like the idea of cutting out the bulbs you have ordered. I might have to copy that idea 😀

  4. As some one who works at a Bulb nursery, there is a big shortage of good quality large Tulip bulbs this year, due to the weather (I’m not just saying that!) – so don’t delay your ordering for too long or you may not get any at all. You can always ask for late delivery but at least you will have secured some!

  5. Well done Dan. I am away at the moment but ny travelling companion has been Mr. Parker’s wholesale catalogue. Tulips are my passion and I have marked many, too many, to order when I get home later this
    week, but having read the comments of Maxine Grice, might be too late. Purchased far too many last year so I never learn! Mrs P.

  6. This post is obscene. You had me at ‘mahogany and antique peach’, but the ‘sulphur-edged petals of ‘Doberman’..?’ I can almost hear the surreptitious opening strums of The Thing That Should Not Be, and I wonder if I’m in the right frame of mind for looking at pictures of voluptuous flowers at all…

    I’ve already gone bulb-planting bonkers this month, but you’re making my snowdrops and snakeheads look rather tame!!

  7. I bought a batch of tulips last month and can’t wait to see them come up next spring. You have such good taste, I can’t wait to see yours.

  8. While in school, my colleague and I referred to the Jackson & Perkins catalog of bare root roses as ‘Entertainment for Horticulturists’. tee hee. We did not get catalogs for bulbs back then.

  9. I have ordered the late flowering single pink tulip Menton from the SR catalogue for the past few years. I don’t particularly like pink but this one is a vibrant coral rather than a soppy pale shade. Key thing is its height as it grows to literally two and a half feet tall, it is massive. Even my mother has been impressed, something that doesn’t happen very often.

  10. I can’t wait to see how your ‘bulb porn’ will turn out. I haven’t started with mine so I guess I better get started with it. 🙂

    Nice post!

  11. So glad I’m not the only one still lingering over the Sarah Raven catalogue longing for it all and trying to work out what’s practical for a tiny city plot! Too many luscious choices still to be made and a disquieting sense of urgency that if I don’t choose very soon, there will be none left!

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