I love tulips. For a while in my gardening life I struggled to create the effects that I wanted until I had the blinding realisation that the problem was that I was not using enough of them. Isn't it wonderful when the right answer is the exciting answer? Now I buy in bulk. I plant new ones in pots, some new ones in the ground and, when I can get my act together, some of the ones which were in last year's pots into the ground too. This is the counsel of perfection as usual and doesn't always happen. In the autumn of 2010 I remembered in time to get quite a lot into the cutting garden. Last year I lifted all my bulbs, failed to label them, left them to die down and failed to remember that they were hiding in a big pot in the kitchen garden. When I came across them in November when I was planting out my new ones I found that most of them had rotted or been eaten. Some did go into the cutting garden and into beds in the kitchen garden if they looked to have any signs of life but it was not a distinguished performance on my part.
Despite that 2012 is being a fab year for tulips. I ordered from Peter Nyssen last year and will certainly do so again. The choice was vast, the prices were good and the bulbs when they came were firm and fat. Having envied mountainear's fabulous pots a couple of years ago I adopted the technique she recommended of planting bulbs in pots in layers, very close together. This produces a sumptuous effect which I love.
These are Cape Cod (apricot/yellow) with National Velvet (dark red) and Sapporo (creamy white). There are three pots like that and I love them.
These pots are a bit less successful I think. These have Cape Cod again with Red Shine (the tall red) and Cairo ( the bronze one). I am not convinced that the bronze is the right contrast with the apricot/yellow but that is one of the risks of planting mixed pots. You never know exactly what you are getting until it all comes up.
Ian prefers the more subtle combinations of two dark colours or the pots of a single colour.
These are Abu Hassan (mahogany with yellow edge) and Hermitage (orange flushed deep red). This seemed quite a chancy combination when I planted them up but it has proved to be a winner. It might have been a clash too far but it works beautifully I think.
I love them against the lime washed white of the bakehouse.
Hermitage was a new discovery, as was Abu Hassan, and I shall definitely grow both them again. I do understand the beauty of the single variety in a pot - I must do, I planted them up - but I also love the explosion of colour that comes from mixing them up.
In the side garden and in the cutting garden Ballerina has been beautiful. Sometimes I play the game of "If you could have only one tulip what would it be?" and the pure bolt of colour and elegant shape of Ballerina would make it very high on my list. But then I get lost in catalogues or websites and know that I could never choose.
Hermitage also looks good in the ground. It is a much shorter tulip than Ballerina and needs a place where it will not be viewed in the same glance as the colours are close enough to work but only with a gentle buffer of emerging foliage such as this peony's. I like the bluey green, slightly glaucous foliage.
These are going over now in the cutting garden. They are Monsella and they came up for a second showing having been left in the ground. My past experience is that many tulips don't flower again but the stony soil here seems to suit them better than when I gardened on soft loam.
And by the cherry tree tulipa linifolia is coming up. There just isn't enough of it. I love it so much that I shall continue to try to get it to naturalize.
How dull the world would be without tulips.