Tulip Times

April is a fabulous time for admiring tulips. Each time a spot of brilliant color or a dab of a creamy pastel catches your eye it could very well be a tulip with its easy sway saying hello to you. Tulips are one of my favorite bulbs and easily my first choice in spring flowers.

Years ago I attended a lecture by the late great Christopher Lloyd who was very entertaining and I remember how he characterized daffodils as nice but “boring” because you get the same thing every year. They were too strict for him returning in their diligent manner with their limited color palette.

Instead, Mr. Lloyd said he preferred tulips because there was risk associated with them….you never know what you’re going to get! He said although the risk could be elevated (compared to daffodils) the rewards could be too. He then showed slides of gorgeous spring vignettes featuring tulips at Great Dixter.

The masterful gardener created a convert that day with his whimsical manner and pretty pictures because ever since I focus most of my fall bulb planting time on tulips. I do have a few daffodils in my garden too (and they are the first to excite me each Spring) but very few.

Last fall I spent some time considering where I could create an eye-catching tulip vignette in my mixed border bed. I remembered one of Mr. Lloyd’s plant combinations from years ago that I liked so much that included orange tulips with myosotsis ‘Forget-Me-Nots’ planted all around it. I was drawn to the combination of blue and orange.

However, ‘Forget-Me-Nots’ would not work in this combination because they are not typically in bloom early Spring in my climate unless they are grown in a greenhouse or purchased from a nursery. Then I realized my creeping speedwell (Veronica umbrosa) ‘Georgia blue’ is an early bloomer along with my Euphorbia polychrome that offers up a bright chartreusey  yellow. A clear orange tulip could work with both of them nicely.

I ordered some Darwin hybrid tulip ‘Orange Queen’ from Brent and Becky’s bulbs and this is the result.

I like it!

Since April really is tulip time in my garden here are a few shots of other tulips in the garden. First the pretty pink ones…



From a distance…

These pink tulips have done very well under this plum tree and each year there are more and they are so nice and big.  The funny thing about these tulips is that I am pretty sure I bought these at Target on a whim.  I don’t know what kind or variety they are but they have been fabulous performers.  Target, go figure!

Lastly, Tulip Greigii ‘Fur Elise’.  These are a new type for me and were also purchased from Brent and Becky’s last fall.  Although I love the colors of the blossom they came up pretty haphazardly.  Some had tiny blooms, some blossoms didn’t form quite right while others were large and beautiful.  The verdict is still out on this tulip, I’ll wait and see what happens next year once they’ve had more time to mature.  I also need to think about a vignette I could create around these tulips.  Ideas are welcome!

How about you?  What are your favorite spring bulbs?  Do you prefer tulips or daffodils?  Do you let the tulip foliage yellow/brown for a couple of months before removing it so that the tulips bulbs have lots of energy for the next season?


13 thoughts on “Tulip Times

  1. What a stunning “story” you’ve created with your tulips – and I’m taking notes! I’m waiting for my bulbs to arrive for planting so this was such a well timed post for me :).

    I prefer tulips to daffs but I plant both. I pulled up the tulips last year because the yellowing foliage looked bad … this year I’m planting them “under” other things so that the foliage can die down undistrurbed. Still on a learning curve I am …

    1. Arrgh! I know it is frustrating when you have beautiful tulips almost ready to bloom and the deer come in and “take care of them.” My inlaws have to wrestle with deer quite a lot. They finally put a screened area in to grow all of their veggies.

  2. Tiffany Asper

    I really love the orange and blue combination! I have cherry red tulips throughout my beds and am going to add some bluebells to get that brilliant blue effect.

  3. My favorite bulb is Frittilaria malaegris, the purple checkered one. It is wonderful in combination with fiery orange species tulips. I think I will beef up that combo with some ‘Queen of the Night’ tulips next. ‘Fur Elise’ is lovely…how about some silvery grasses for a dance partner?

    1. Oh, I’ve been seeing that Frittilaria this spring and I would love to try it. Your vignette sounds lovely. I like the idea of the silver grasses, I just need to find one that has some foliage showing by late march/early april. Maybe blue oat grass? I’ll have to think on it. THanks for stopping by. 🙂

  4. Lovely combination of colours. I like the euphorbia for a light yellow as contrast. I am also a tulip person, although I had some beautiful small, short-stemmed daffodils this year – “Hawera”. I leave tulip leaves for as long as I can bear to see them, and then just chop them a bit as they get covered by other plants.
    Lovely post!

  5. Jenny

    Wow! I’m sold on the pink ones…. I like the shape of them…. Although the colors r pretty in ur other newest bulbs… love the cone shape, or will they open more? Ps… What Brent n Becky’s?? Is that in Idaho?

  6. Simply spectacular! I love tulips as they come in some many shapes, forms and colors. I have never been successful with them here though. The squirrels always dig out and eat the bulbs. Any tips? I have a huge three layer flower bed and so far all I have done is Plant annuals every year. I love having flowers non stop for three months. Yet I really want to get more creative. We live in a tricky climate.

    1. Hmmm…I don’t have the type of squirrels in my area that dig and eat bulbs. However, I have read that if you have problems with things likes voles (they dig and tunnel) you should plant tulips 8 inches deep. This means a full 6 to 7 inches of soil covers them helping keep them out of reach. Maybe this same technique would work with squirrels. Also, if you are in zone 4-5 plant your tulips in Sept. or early Oct. so the root systems can get a start before the ground freezes. Try again this year, you never know when your tulip luck will strike big! 🙂

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