Tulips, tulips everywhere


I think it’s time for a bit of loud celebration and joyousness…


I bought these orange tulips, I freely admit, because they were cheap. A week later, Alys Fowler condemned them in the Guardian as unsubtle. And she’s right: subtle, they’re not. But I didn’t want subtle, excuse me; I wanted loud and bright and bouncy and cheerful. And that’s exactly what I got.

And I wanted something which would work next to the stonework and the colour of my doors (ahem, it needs patching up – it’s the weather; straight off the sea and slap into the front door).

I thought orange would work, based on the classic colour wheel, and it did. I’ve had red ones here – they’re OK – and white and pink stripes and a mixture of white and Queen of the Night (but that one really didn’t – I had to move them, and then they came into their own).

I do enjoy my pots of tulips, and once they’re over I plant them out. Sometimes it’s successful and sometimes it isn’t. Shrug.

This year, though, I’m going to try something different. Inspired by Karen of the Artist’s Garden, I’m going to enlarge the bed around my sundial and do some tulip consolidation. Some are already happily ensconced there:

but they can accommodate a few friends, I’m sure. And these are, for some reason, gradually moderating in colour – the stripes are getting less pronounced. Or maybe some of the bulbs haven’t survived?

I’m not sure, but I don’t much care because I think I prefer the less emphatic versions. They’ll certainly be happier with some of the tulips I’m intending to move.

(Er – I mean they’ll work better. They seem quite happy as it is, thank you.)

This parrot tulip is a stray; it comes up every year just below one of my ash trees, and I think it must be left over from the Wing Commander’s days in this garden (he died about twenty years ago). Apparently he had a thing for unusual tulips, bought some for pots every year and then planted them out and let them take their chance, exactly as I do. A few have survived – some yellows which are unfortunately under a giant builders’ sack of chippings due to bad planning on my part, another pink or two – and I shall rootle them out and move them. Hopefully without any accompanying dandelions.

Also into the bed will go these lovelies.

I can’t remember what they are, either. (I have a mid-year resolution which I have just implemented: keep the damn labels, you great nellie.)

I’ll add some whites, a few stray reds and my Queen of the Nights, and we’ll see how they do. Karen’s mixed tulip bed, which hopefully she will blog about, shows that all sorts of colours work perfectly well together. We shall see.

Some I’m not moving, though. I have some with red and yellow stripes which work very well indeed with the new leaves on a small acer,

though this year the timing didn’t quite work out due to the burst of warm insanity in March and they had to go with the primroses instead.

The species tulips are staying firmly put, as well. In theory they are in a bed at the front of the house because I walk past it every day on my commute down to the basement office, and it’s an ideal spot for them; they don’t get swamped by other things and their beauty is obvious as you look down on them directly. In theory.

Hmm. It is only a theory. I have to say that though my tulips in general have been excellent this year, when they weren’t being eaten, the species tulips – notably my T.tarda, which I couldn’t photograph because they’ve not flowered at all – haven’t been that good. Why, who can tell. They were the only tulips that hadn’t been chewed, as well (when they appeared at all, ahem).

Karen has a tulip theory too: that you grow into them, that you have to have a certain amount of maturity before you can really appreciate them. I’m not sure I entirely agree; I’ve always liked them, and though I’ve not really had them in the garden until recently, I’ve always had them in pots. What do you think?


24 Comments Add yours

  1. I have certainly grown into tulips. Like you I always liked them but there is liking and there is loving and loving is a more recent thing. I put mine in the garden to take their chance too. Some are ok and many more disappear but that’s ok! It is an excuse for buying more the following year.

    1. kate says:

      Your tulips are an example to us all – they’re very lovely. I’m going to definitely be more adventurous next year!

  2. croftgarden says:

    Himself adores orange so I’m giving you a proxy vote.
    The voles ate my T. tarda and the wind shredded the T. tukestanica, not brave (foolhardy) enough to try some of the big ones yet, but I have a yearning for some of the parrots.

    1. kate says:

      I wonder if voles could be my problem? Something has certainly eaten them but – even though I have had voles in the past – I did spot a collared dove having a go at something in that bed…

      I just know that a parrot tulip would last about 5 minutes here. The pretty left-over one is in the only sheltered spot… love them too…

      1. croftgarden says:

        Voles and mice seem to be very fond of both Ttulips and crocuses. Litttle blighters had a feast in the polytunnel this winter – what they didn’t eat they just threw out the pots.
        I’m going to persevere with the species tulips and just dream about the exotica.

        1. kate says:

          Little sods… I’ve had the ‘playing with your food’ thing before, but so long ago I’d forgotten. I think my voles/mice can’t be as athletic as yours, or maybe Next Door’s Cat doesn’t just spend the day sleeping and using my garden as a toilet…

  3. paulinemulligan says:

    Your orange tulips are just the right colour with your blue door – fantastic. I wish they liked my soil more, heavy clay, so I grew some in pots this year, mice ate them all!! Will try again in the autumn.

    1. kate says:

      My mice are all fat and round from snacking on the fritillaries, suspect they couldn’t waddle far enough to get at the tulips (either that or Next Door’s Cat has stopped slacking). Maybe you could plant a few frits as a distraction?

  4. Lyn says:

    The orange looks perfect with the stone and the door. Like Pauline, I can’t grow tulips in the ground because of the heavy clay, but I certainly would if I could. I specially like that stray parrot tulip.

    1. kate says:

      I do sympathise – I gardened with London clay for nine years, so I can’t quite believe my luck here. And every so often I think of all the tulip bulbs I must have thrown out over those years – parrots, especially, and I also had a real weakness for stripes…

  5. That colour combination of the orange against the door is wonderful. Glad you liked my “random tulip bed’ it is a bit bonkers, but I think because everything is jumbled up together it works. However, in the Autumn I did manage to make a bit of a blunder with some tulip planting, which I shall blog about soon!

    1. kate says:

      Ah ha… looking forward to that…

      I’m already anticipating this autumn’s bulb catalogues, though by the look / sound / feel of today’s weather I should be expecting them any minute. Ewrgh. Won’t be many petals left on anything by this time tomorrow.

  6. elaine says:

    What a bright splash of colour those orange tulips make – the rain has bashed my tulips about and most of their petals have gone – they looked lovely while they lasted though.

    1. kate says:

      They do _ when they first opened I was ready to agree with Alys Fowler, but they’re so unpretentiously bright and jolly I ended up thinking she’d gone bonkers. Or just lost her ability to enjoy uncomplicated things, perhaps. Sophisticated, they’re not, but who cares?

      Weather appalling here today, so that’ll be an end to the tulips…

  7. wellywoman says:

    I do love tulips, they’re just not keen on my garden. Bulbs eaten by soil dwelling creatures and a touch of tulip fire. I’m also not keen on the fact that they can’t be relied on to put on as good a show in subsequent years. They are quite an expensive addition. Saying that though I realise that my garden is lacking without them so come the Autumn I plan to restock again.

    1. kate says:

      Yeah, they can be really expensive and they are a bit of a lottery, but I watch out for bulb sales in places like Wilkinsons – though I did go mad and spend too much money with Blom’s one year. It’s surprising what some of the big shops have in, not just the now ubiquitous Queen of the Night, and I’ve had some lovelies. In fact some of my chain-store-sale purchases have performed better year on year than those from my Oh Boy Blom’s Experience…

  8. patientgardener says:

    I love tulips but have only started growing them in the last 5 years. The turning point for me was planting them out in the border rather than confined to pots. I’m not very good at pots and the way my garden works I have a very limited view of where pots might sit from the living room, however I can see a lot of border. This year I planted losts of tulips in the border and they have been absolutely wonderful

    1. kate says:

      Well, going by your photos your tulips are really fantastic, and a vindication of your decision to plant them there – I’m not used to them working in the soil (clay-soil survivor syndrome), and I need to do some more work on them, but it’s wonderful when it works!

      (I’ll still have my pots of plenty though – the year I forgot, I really missed them.)

  9. Dobby says:

    I never did agree with Alys Fowler when she was on Gardeners World. The colour combination is fab. Good luck with the planting out. If yours is as bonkers as Karen’s, (in her own words), it will have worked!! I especially like the lovely your can’t remember the name of and the red one 2 pictures down.

    1. kate says:

      Well, poo to Alys Fowler and her opinions, then!

      But then I have a real weakness for unsubtle… we’ll see if it works next spring……… Hmmmmm)

  10. Crystal says:

    I have some bright red Darwin tulips that come up every year and I love them. I’ve bought some peony-flowered ones this year, currently in pots. Nice colours, but a bit erm soggy at the moment. I’ll be planting them out after they’ve flowered to take their chances for next year. Don’t have much success with the small species tulips though. If they survive, they don’t flower well.

    1. kate says:

      They’re gorgeous, aren’t they? We’ve had unbelievable storms today, and I don’t think it’s a question of soggy so much as all my tulip petals being somewhere over the Irish Sea. Oh well, they were lovely while they lasted!

  11. Christina says:

    Hi Kate, as you know, I love tulips, in pots, in the ground, anywhere really! I think they really need dry summer weather so you’re not ideally suited where you are, and I agree, plant some in pots, then plant them out – treat them as annuals if they come back that’s a bonus. Enjoy, mine are over- boo! Christina

    1. kate says:

      They certainly benefit from dryness and – shhhhh – summer, so I am certainly battling against reality here, where both concepts are a little – um – theoretical. I’ll give them a go and we shall see… sigh.

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