This year I find that I am impatiently waiting for the main tulip season as I have a number of combinations that I want to see in reality in the garden. Already though, the cute species tulips are wow-ing me and the bees.
Years ago I would have said that I didn’t like tulips, but I’ve grown to like them. My initial thinking was that they look too artificial and toy-like, coloured blobs on sticks. I suspect that growing up seeing the local council’s bedding combinations was the main contributing factor there. The displays tended to be tedious, inspiring boredom or in the worse cases, dizziness from the shocking colour combinations! I still have a strong aversion to bright yellow tulips.
Gradually though, with changes in style and travelling further afield, things have changed. Exposure to gardens abroad, such as Villandry and Versailles in France, have shown that parterre planting can be bold and wonderful. Imaginative spot and underplanting can really transform and enhance the look (take note Wimpole parterre!).
So I have reached the point where I have a list of favourites, including many classics like: ‘Angelique’, ‘Negrita’, ‘Doll’s Minuet’, ‘Ronaldo’, ‘Ballerina’, ‘Queen of the Night’ and ‘Cairo’.
Maybe what really changed my mind about tulips was seeing a meadow full of species tulips. In the sunshine they really looked like a jewel-studded cloth. I tried to reproduce this somewhat by growing Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’ on a small grassy slope in the corner of the garden and that work for a number of years, but a recent redesign has meant that I have lost these. The rest of my species tulips are in pots or containers, because I know that I will be able to find them there. T. ‘Heart’s Delight’ is always first off the marks and is such a tease, with it’s neat, upright closed appearance and lush, sunny open look. T. turkestanica is even now busy spreading charm around with its perfect, tiny, multi-headed flowers. When you see the bees on these it is a bit like seeing King Kong at the top of the Empire State building.
As for wishlists, I definitely want to get my hands on T. acuminata. It’s extreme lily form and stunning colour is so attractive. I must get organised this year so that I manage to order while they have some in stock.