Sunday, 11 January 2015


Some tulip varieties come back better than others. To help your bulbs be longer-lived perennials, grow them in well-drained soil. It also helps to plant them 8-10 inches below the soil surface -- deeper than usual. To discover which tulips are good bets for long life, read on.
- The 'Apeldoorn's Elite' tulip glows with its red- and gold-striped petals in midspring. This bicolor Darwin hybrid tulip, in true character of the class, is a prolific perennial. It can reach 2 feet tall.
Red Apeldoorn

- Tulips Lily Flowering 'Macarena'

- Tulip "Concerto" is a harmony in white and cream colors. This dwarf, early flowering tulip is quite able to re-flower even if you don’t lift the bulbs during dormancy. Long lasting blooms and easy growth requirements make this tulip a winner.
Sarah Raven chooses her favourite varieties to make your garden a riot of colour all spring long
- Tulip 'Purissima' is one of the early flowerers
Plant tulips in containers, too. Don’t go for splendid isolation, but put them together in rich and beautiful colour combinations to create a living arrangement. My favourites include a mix of the red 'Couleur Cardinal’, orange 'Prinses Irene’ and black 'Havran’. We call this our Venetian tulip collection. It has been a winner for years and is now joined by another stalwart, the Brandy Snap mixture of conker-orange 'Cairo’, purple 'Ronaldo’, copper 'Bruine Wimpel’ and the delicious latte-coloured, 'La Belle Epoque’.

New Tulip Collection
The first is not a beauty, but a weirdo. If you saw 'Brooklyn’ without its leaves you would think it looks more like a globe artichoke than a tulip. I love it. The main flower is almost invisible at the top, with wide green petals extending a good six inches down the stem.
Planted in a pot with some dark, rich-flowered tulips such as 'Jan Reus’ or 'Havran’, you’ve got a four or five-week living flower arrangement. The silvery green, bract-like petals of 'Brooklyn’ are the perfect shape and colour contrast to the flowers of the other two.

Another new tulip, which would do well in this green, crimson and purple collection is 'Night Rider’. This is in the viridiflora (or green-flowered) group. Its apple green petal hearts are a bold and brilliant contrast to the vibrant purple tips and it has a strong bowl shape with a smoky-purple stem.

Another new tulip, which would do well in this green, crimson and purple collection is 'Night Rider’. This is in the viridiflora (or green-flowered) group. Its apple green petal hearts are a bold and brilliant contrast to the vibrant purple tips and it has a strong bowl shape with a smoky-purple stem.

Back again to the viridflora group for 'Green Star’, not quite as strange as 'Brooklyn’, but nearly. It stands out strongly from other tulips with its truly starry, thin-petalled flowers with a white base, striped with green. The petals flare right out, twisting a little as they go, with two or three heads on the stem.
While in Holland this spring I made a bunch mixing it with the pure white, lily-flowered 'White Triumphator’, classic, single white 'Diana’ and cream-and-pink 'Cream Upstar’. I added some all-important contrast with the peachy coral 'Menton’ and it looked fabulous.

'Menton’ is a tulip new to me, but not so recently bred. It stands at least twice the height of most others in the trial fields, with whopping great flowers, the size of a goose egg.
For those who don’t like orange, but need a zap of colour contrast to mix with whites and creams or purples and crimson-blacks, this is the colour for you, in the most wonderful, shot-silk coral.

Then there’s 'Cream Upstar’, a truly new form. I’m not usually one for doubles, but this one looked so like a peony I fell for it – and it has scent. Most scented tulips are orange or yellow, but this is an exception, super-pretty, with a soft, sweet fragrance of freesias.

For a complete colour change, I also fell for 'Malibu’. I am forever on the lookout for amber, copper and brown tulips, which I think are in a class of their own. I love 'Bruine Wimpel’ for its honey-brown colouring and 'Malibu’ is in the same sophisticated, shot-silk class, with a lovely, bluish, smoky bloom on the petals’ outer surface, reminiscent of a plum or damson.

Tambour Maitre’ has the same outer petal fog and, like 'Menton’, it stood out in the trial field, exceptionally tall and straight. It’s a good, strong grower, coming up year after year, with petals in a carmine-crimson.

This would mix brilliantly with another new parrot, 'Chicago’, which has the typical parrot crinkly edged petals, each one with the most perfect satiny sheen in an incredible deep red carmine. Both were added straight to my new tulip shopping list.

They would look fabulous planted together with a splash of 'Boa Vista’ scattered through. Like 'Brooklyn’, this is tulip as foliage, but with 'Boa Vista’, the green, fully double flowers have a carmine tip to every petal which matches the flower colour of the other two.
It is all too easy to spend a fortune on a tulip spectacle that lasts no more than two or three weeks.
I've done it time and time again and loved the flower-festival feel of the garden, but you can easily do better for longer with a bit of a plan.
If you choose your tulips willy-nilly, regardless of their flowering time, many are likely to bloom within a week or two of each other, around the end of April and beginning of May, coming and going in a flash. It is better to spread them out as much as you can, choosing a smattering of earlies, some mids and some late-flowering forms.
This is my list of 20 of the best tulips, which will guarantee a succession of flowers for most of spring.
You want to start with the Fosteriana varieties, 'Purissima' and 'Orange Emperor'. I haven't yet discovered any more lovable earlier tulip, although there are the Greigiis, which all come in Ikea scarlet and yellow and are neither pretty nor handsome.
There are also one or two petite, delicate species varieties that flower early, like the lady tulip, Tulipa clusiana 'Cynthia' and T. turkestanica.
These are exquisite, but don't have the pizzazz of their later cousins. 'Purissima' and 'Orange Emperor' flower in my garden from mid to late March and you can't fail to like one or other of them. They both look fantastic crammed into pots, and if you fancy a succession of bulbs in pots, I'd begin with these.
Next up are 'Chatto', 'Prinses Irene' and 'Couleur Cardinal'. 'Chatto' is classified in the double-late group, but it always flowers in my garden at least three weeks earlier than the rest of its group. It is not my favourite colour and is on the short side, but its earliness makes this little-known and little-grown tulip invaluable.
'Prinses Irene' and 'Couleur Cardinal' are in the single-early group. They begin flowering in early April and excel in their length of flowering, keeping going for longer than most tulips and they also have good foliage: green washed with a lovely copper blue.
One of the best tulip visions you will ever see is a swathe of 'Prinses Irene' planted in a huge verdigris copper pot in the middle of a statuesque, sombre square of yews in the cottage garden at Sissinghurst. The leaves almost match the container and the whole thing is topped by an undulating orange cloud, feathered with crimson and green.
The next group are the triumph tulips that include the best of the beautiful deep reds. I love the wine-coloured 'Jan Reus' that flowers by the middle of April, closely followed by the almost-black 'Queen of Night' and delicate deep purple 'Recreado'.
This is the best purple tulip for its fineness of flower and the lovely wash of purple that extends down the first part of its stem. 'Havran' is a spectacular deep crimson with a smoky wash on the outer petals.
Bang in the middle of spring comes an early parrot tulip, the red, green and gold stippled 'Rococo'. This makes an excellent cut flower and indoor pot plant. A handful of bulbs planted now and kept somewhere light but under cover, will flower reliably inside by the middle of March.
Next comes the all-time beauty, the sweetly scented brilliant orange 'Ballerina'. This is tall, with pointy-tipped petals and slim, elegant, haughty-looking flowers. This flowers at the same time as, and can be mixed with, 'Black Hero' (a double late), a tall, stately variety that looks just like a peony flowering in the middle of spring.
At about this time the other lily-flowered tulips come into flower: 'Burgundy', 'Mariette' and 'Doll's Minuet'. Whatever your taste, there's at least one you'll love amongst these late mid-season blooms.
'Antraciet', a double late, comes into bloom now, and is the perfect tulip for your mid-spring pots. Just as the Fosterianas drop their petals, these flowers unfurl and last well, carrying the colour baton well into May. The texture of this tulip is as rich and sultry as the colour, a drop of carmine pink mixed in with crimson-red.
The lovely green-splashed viridifloras are among the last to flower and these seem to be the longest-lasting group in my garden, coming up in corners where they've been left undisturbed now for over a decade. My favourites are 'Spring Green', which is half-flower, half-foliage so it goes with anything, and the shorter green and orange 'Artist'.
Then finally comes the procession of flamboyant parrots. 'Rococo' has done its stuff and gone, but the yellow, slashed red 'Flaming Parrot' and the huge-flowered, opulent and scented 'Orange Favourite' are the last of all.
Their petals cling on to coincide with 'Purple Sensation' alliums that flower from the middle of May onwards. Then the alliums continue the bulb procession into the middle of summer.
Choose one or two from each of these groups of tulips and spread them around your patch. If you plant enough, they are all you will need for a brilliantly colourful spring garden.
'Queen of Night', 'Muriel', 'Jan Reus', 'Tambour Maitre', 'Black Parrot' and 'Seedling Oax'

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