GARDEN GURU: How do you feel about tulips in your garden? I love them in pots where I treat them like a vase of cut flowers and am prepared to discard them at the end of the season. I do feel guilty though about buying new ones every year for the borders. I am too lazy to dig the old ones up in time, dry them in a safe, airy, out-of-the-way place, give them the deep freeze treatment and replant at the appropriate time. In their native Turkey and Central Asia they grow in great perennial clumps, coming up every year after experiencing very hot, dry summers followed by freezing winters. As we garden in a temperate clime we have to try and emulate this as best we can – or just use prepared bulbs which are bred to give their best just once and then fade away. There are, however, some varieties which are more likely to perform as perennials than others – the perfect thing planted as a drift in a mixed border.
Here are three beauties chosen by Val Bourne with suggestions as to what to plant with them inspired by a visit to Great Dixter in East Sussex:
‘Negrita’(Triumph, late April, 45cm/18in)
The classic purple tulip, perennial and robust. This looks superb with the young foliage of phloxes, which often has dark tones. The purple petals glow in any light and they are veined with deep purple. One of finest Triumphs, good in large drifts on its own.
‘Daydream’ (Darwin Hybrid, mid-April, 30cm/12in)
This Darwin hybrid is Fergus’s life partner of the tulip world because it changes colour in different lights, from apricot through to warm orange and yellow with red highlights. Used with the shiny green parsley-like foliage of Ferula tingitana ‘Cedric Morris’.
‘Purissima’ (Fosteriana, early-mid April, 45cm/18in)
This languid tulip gets taller as it matures and the white flowers turn more clotted cream. It grows through a sprawling Clematis x jouiniana ‘Praecox’ before the clematis takes over.
If you have a spare moment it’s worth reading this article by Val Bourne discussing how Fergus Garrett, deals with tulips at Great Dixter. I love his generous pots of clashing colours which look fabulous but also act as a useful trial ground for new varieties.