The Late, Late Tulip Show

Cold weather in spring can only hold our gardens back for so long. It’s like a catapult, the further the sling is pulled back – i.e the longer the cold days continue – the faster the shot flies when conditions improve. For the last week, every night has been over 5ºC and daytime temperatures have climbed into double figures. April’s green haze has started to solidify into the lime blaze of May, although it still feels as if we are three or four weeks behind a normal year, let alone last year when summer seemed to start in late March. I think we are all surprised and delighted by the length of this year’s tulip season, which has now endured for two months. I reckon we have about two weeks left, which, incredibly, will take us to the very eve of June.

In the Jungle Garden the spring display has now reached its zenith. I used to call my arrangement of pots a bulb ‘theatre’, but it’s become so lengthy that’s it’s now more accurately a bulb ‘stadium’. Larger pots (12″-14″) containing taller varieties are placed in the back row, medium sized pots (10-12″) are positioned in the middle and smaller pots filled with irises, hardy orchids, crocuses, miniature tulips, hostas, anemones and ranunculus make up the front row. At this time of year they are rearranged weekly and deadheaded daily to keep things looking tip-top.

Of course, it’s tulips that sustain our displays until the exotics are ready to come outside. We have several varieties that are in their prime right now, and one or two that are still in their first flush of youth, namely ‘Capri Dream’ and the absurdly named ‘Supri Erotic’. In the Gin & Tonic garden ‘Madonna’ and ‘Twilight Princess’ flank the greenhouse door, still fresh and fabulous. Here are mid May’s main protagonists:

From left to right: ‘Exotic Emperor’, ‘Madonna’, ‘Supri Erotic’, ‘Hemisphere’, ‘Peppermint Stick’, ‘Pretty Princess’, ‘Design Impression’, ‘Merlot’, ‘Capri Dream’ and ‘Black Hero’.

From top to bottom: ‘Exotic Emperor’, ‘Madonna’, ‘Supri Erotic’, ‘Hemisphere’, ‘Design Impression’, ‘Peppermint Stick’, ‘Pretty Princess’, ‘Merlot’, ‘Capri Dream’ and ‘Black Hero’.

What I particularly love about tulips is the sheer depth and complexity of their colouration. Even before you get to colour, there are different flower shapes, singles, doubles and parrot or fringed petals. Layer on top of that a spectrum of shades and tones that frequently defy description (if only there were a dictionary of words one could use to describe colour), displayed on petals with the most extraordinary lustre, and then add the effects produced by different lighting throughout the day ….. it’s enough to blow one’s mind. I have the exact same blooms I photographed for this post here on the table next to me and they look totally different only a few days later. Take ‘Merlot’ for example. In bud it’s a dusky, burgundy beauty; there’s violet in there, plus a deep, smoky-rose that reminds me of Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’. I find myself aching for better words to try and explain its beauty. Cheek-by-jowl with the rosewood glow of ‘Continental’, the pairing exudes class, restraint and understated glamour. Then ‘Merlot’ opens, catching the sun, and all that aching sophistication is replaced by a glossy berry compote, juicy with shades of raspberry, elderberry and loganberry. Absolutely mouthwatering. Indoors, at lower light levels, the flowers lose much of their uniqueness, which is why I generally prefer not to cut them. That’s just one tulip, inadequately described, and yet I am exhausted in my quest for the right words to commend it to you. My advice is to grow more tulips next year and experience their multifarious dimensions first hand. It’s the only way to truly appreciate them. TFG.

To hear me waxing lyrical about tulips and daffodils, among other flowers, tune into the ‘Talking Dirty’ podcast either on You Tube or Captivate FM.

From top to bottom: ‘Exotic Emperor’, ‘Madonna’, ‘Supri Erotic’, ‘Hemisphere’, ‘Peppermint Stick’ and ‘Pretty Princess’

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10 thoughts on “The Late, Late Tulip Show

  1. Selection must be daunting. I get to see pictures from other gardens. If I had to select some for my own garden, . . . well, that would be difficult. I could select those that I know I like, which is only a few. I could not be adventurous enough to try those with wild color, or worse, wild form!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Exotic Emperor is done for the year here, but it was a fan favourite, looking great in a vase or in the garden. I loved how each petal has a mind of its own, twisting this way and that, and the green flame on the outer petals are really cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The catapult has been released and there has been that sudden whoooosh of growth in the garden. Your tulip display continues to be majestic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have now grown tulips in pots for a few years but never on the same scale as you. Note to self to buy more this year, and many thanks for some great suggestions.
    On a different topic, I know you like your books(!) and wondered if you had heard of The Plant Hunters Atlas by Ambra Edwards which is being released on 27 May. I learnt of it in an NGS talk.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Your tulips are so gorgeous! And all the different colors and patterns and shapes are beautiful. Tulips usually only last a week or so here before it gets too hot, so I find myself more loath to spend the money to plant them every year — but after seeing yours, I think I might need to plant just a few more this fall….
    Best Regards,
    -Beth

    Like

  6. Hello, I found your blog about geranium maderense and enjoyed it so much I started at the beginning of your blogs and have read all the way through – I hope that’s not stalking! It’s been like reading a beautiful and fascinating book, I have discovered all kinds of interesting plants. I have started growing dahlias for the first time this year and will certainly increase my order of tulips for next spring! Thank you for brightening these cold wet days, perhaps this coming weekend will be the start of better weather?

    Liked by 1 person

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