GARDEN GURU: Continuing last week’s theme of bulb planting time – here are a few words about tulips. There is a huge range to choose from so I think it’s worth spending a few moments at home getting your head around the choice BEFORE you enter the garden centre and get carried away by the pictures on the packet. The deciding factors should be colour, shape, height, site suitability and flowering time. The RHS has kindly given us a list of some of the best:
Choosing tulips – Tulips are divided into 15 divisions chiefly defined by their flower characteristics and sometimes referred to in bulb catalogues. Broadly speaking, their flowers can be described as single or double; cup-shaped, bowl-shaped or goblet-shaped; fringed, parrot or lily-flowered; long, slender-tepalled or star-shaped.
When choosing tulips, consider their flowering times, suitability for borders, containers (see below), or a rock garden where the smaller species such as Tulipa tarda AGM or T. kaufmanniana can be best utilised. Some are ideal for naturalising in fine grass; in particular, the low-growing tulip T. sprengeri AGM.
Amongst the most popular for bedding, borders or containers:
Tulipa ‘Mount Tacoma’ (Double Late Group): Pink and green buds open to peony-flowered creamy-white blooms in late spring. Height 40cm (16in).
- ‘Purissima’ (Fosteriana Group) AGM: Single, bowl-shaped slightly fragrant pure white flowers on sturdy stems produced mid-spring. Height 35cm (14in).
- ‘Spring Green’ (Viridiflora Group) AGM: Green-feathered ivory-white flowers in late spring. Height 40cm (16in).
- ‘White Triumphator’ (Lily-flowered Group) AGM: Graceful long-stemmed flowers of pure white. Height 60cm (2ft).
Purple-black or violet-blue flowers:
- ‘Black Parrot’ (Parrot Group) AGM: Distinctive crimped and curled, cup-shaped single bright violet-blue flowers are shaded bronze on the inside of the petals, borne in late spring. Height 60cm (2ft).
- ‘Blue Diamond’ (Double Late Group, peony-flowered): Bowl-shaped dark bluish-purple flowers in late spring. Height 40cm (16in).
- ‘Blue Heron’ (Fringed Group) AGM: Purple-fringed violet-purple flowers, cobalt-violet with white stripes inside the petals during late spring. Height 60cm (2ft).
- ‘Queen of Night’ (Single Late Group): Velvety dark purple-black cup-shaped flowers in late spring. Height 60cm (2ft).
- ‘Angelique’ (Double Late Group) AGM: Peony-shaped, full, slightly ruffled shell-pink flowers are suffused darker pink. Height 30cm (1ft).
- ‘Attila’ (Triumph Group): Single cup-shaped pinkish-purple flowers on strong stems. Good for forcing. Height 40cm (16in).
- ‘China Pink’ (Lily-flowered Group) AGM: Elegant deep-pink goblet-shaped blooms have white bases inside, with swept-back pointed tips. Height 50cm (20in).
- ‘Foxtrot’ (Double Early Group): Soft pink flowers with darker undertones. Height 30cm (1ft).
- Yellow flowers:
- ‘Appledoorn’s Elite’ (Darwin Hybrid Group) AGM: Red-feathered buttercup-yellow flowers flushed yellowish-green at the bases in mid-spring. Height 60cm (2ft).
- ‘Hamilton’ (Fringed Group) AGM: Buttercup-yellow flowers with darker yellow fringes and anthers in late spring. Height 50cm (20in).
- ‘Sweetheart’ (Fosteriana Group): Ivory-white flowers with lemon-yellow flames, deep yellow inside. Height 30cm (1ft).
- ‘West Point’ (Lily-flowered Group) AGM: Primrose yellow flowers in late spring. Height 50cm (20in).
- Apricot, crimson or red flowers:
- ‘Aladdin’ (Lily-flowered Group): Yellow-margined scarlet flowers in late spring. Height 45cm (18in).
- ‘Apricot Beauty’ (Single Early Group) AGM: Cup-shaped soft salmon-pink flowers, later with orange margins. Good for forcing. Height 35cm (14in).
- ‘Rococo’ (Parrot Group): Ornate green-feathered carmine-red blooms. Height 45cm (1.5ft).
- praestans ‘Fusilier’ (Miscellaneous Group) AGM: One of the best dwarf varieties with 3-5 heads of bright scarlet-red blooms per bulb. Height 20cm (8in).
For the more rare and unusual species and cultivars from the Miscellaneous Group try:acuminata: Has distinctive long, narrow red and yellow petals. Height 15-20cm (6-8in).
- humilis ‘Odalisque’: With yellow-centred, beetroot-purple flowers during March and April. Height 10cm (4in).
- orphanidea Whittallii Group AGM: With bright tangerine-orange flowers blotched olive-green at the base, in April-May. A colourful addition for the rock or alpine garden. Height 30cm (1ft).
- praestans ‘Red Sun’: Has flask-shaped buds which open to star-shaped pillar-box red flowers from March to April. Height 20cm (8in).