I love the smartphone for many things, not least its ability to track the actual history and progress of the garden.
Human memory is incredibly fallible.
I always think I will remember where I planted tulip bulbs/bare-root peonies/gladioli corms, but I can guarantee that two weeks later my memory will be half a metre out and will try to plant something else directly over the top.
Similarly, I just can’t retain the richness of information about what the garden looked like a week ago, let alone a month or a year ago.
So keeping accurate records in the form of photos is fabulous.
Look what I discovered this morning. On this day, a year ago, the tulips were out, radiant in the sunshine!
‘Brown Sugar’ is one of my absolute favourites of all time. It has these amazingly rich, warm, sun-kissed tones, so that whilst it is predominantly burnt orange, there’s a pinky magenta blush to the outside of the petal, with striations of tangerine and gold along the mid-rib. You can see the brushstrokes! Inside is a golden stigma and black anthers, with a green star at the centre of the cup. As if this weren’t enough, it smells of honey (not brown sugar). Oh, and this was a bulb just casually replanted from a pot one year, with no expectation of it doing much, but there it is three years on. Please let it still be there!
Also in my Top 5 is ‘Antraciet’. Actually this might be my number one, but don’t tell ‘Brown Sugar’. Look:
It’s glossy, and sophisticated, and satiny and HUGE! Do you see the little feathery frills at the edge of the petals when it is fully open? It ranges from cherry-pink to dark crimson (two of my favourite colours) depending on the light.
Two years ago, I spent a small fortune on a selection of tulips for my raised bed. It was one of those moments on an October afternoon when you suddenly realise you have a good three square metres of planting space that you haven’t filled. What to do but order 200 tulips bulbs? (At wholesale prices. So totally worth it.)
I chose ‘Rem’s Favourite’ (white with purple feathering), ‘Purple Prince’, ‘Spring Green’ (ivory and green), ‘Abba’ (scarlet, but yes, chosen for the name) and the white multi-headed Narcissus ‘Thalia’.
This was a photo taken in the tulips’ second year, suggesting that they repeated very well. So why on earth did I dig up the bulbs once they finished flowering? I don’t know; my phone can’t tell me this. I think it was because I was worried that the bulbs were taking up too much room and I wanted to plant new dahlias. Now I have three raised beds, and I can feel another raised-bed-tulip-display coming on for 2019.
Not all of the tulips were out on this day a year ago. These are the tulips in the Bright border. But the border was at least two weeks ahead of where it is this year. The phlox foliage had already made plump pillows, and my favourite geum ‘Hilltop Beacon’ was out. The tulips in the bright border are ‘Couleur Cardinal’ (smoky plum on the outer petals, maturing from crimson to scarlet), ‘Tambour Maitre’ (a cleaner cherry red), ‘Ballerina’ (tangerine and magenta, lily-flowered, scented, the most long-lasting and long-lived tulip) and ‘Purple Dream’ (lily-flowered, but slightly gangly and ungainly).
This is the bright border a couple of weeks later. You can see the difference some sunshine and maturity makes:
Here is a close-up of ‘Tambour Maitre’ with ‘Ballerina’ and something purple, maybe ‘Recreado’ in the background:
For my rose garden, I wanted to start with marmalade ice-cream tones. Yes, marmalade ice-cream. With a scoop of blackcurrant sorbet. I chose creamy peony-flowered ‘Verona’ and apricot ‘Charming Lady’. They were perfectly nice, but it needed that hit of blackcurrant to bring it to life. Here is ‘Purple Peony’ with a tasteful shimmer of dew:
And then full-skirted splendour. It’s those plum smudges that really get me.
Now that I’ve started, I am just going to go the whole hog and let you see my other favourite tulips. Do you want to time-travel?
Here is ‘Ballerina’ again, this time in my old garden, with the wonderful magenta viridiflora tulip ‘Doll’s Minuet’:
Viridiflora tulips are usually fab for coming back again and again, but ‘Doll’s Minuet’ wasn’t that great. ‘Ballerina’ is an incredibly tenacious tulip. It seems to increase year on year, rather than decrease. It is another one that smells of honey. And it is just so shapely! Look at its elegant derrière!
Whilst we’re in my old garden, let’s hop to the front garden. This is why I fell in love with ‘Couleur Cardinal’. It is pictured with the parrot tulip ‘Rococco’ (wonderful scarlet but with made flecks of green and smoky plum!) and lots of lovely lupin foliage. This was my view when I was doing the washing up:
Here is ‘Black Parrot’. These photos show it in different light conditions, showing the wonderful range of tones. And the feathers! Such plumage! Good Morning, my fine-feathered friends! The first pic is in my old back garden (grown in pots) and the second pic is in the rose garden at Sissinghurst.
Shall I try to make a Top 5? Whoops! I seem to have overflowed.
- Brown Sugar
- Couleur Cardinal
- Purple Peony
- Rem’s Favourite
- Black Parrot
- Doll’s Minuet
- Spring Green
I realise I haven’t a yellow. I’m a bit over yellow by the time the daffodils have finished. Though if pushed, I would probably go for lily-flowered ‘Westpoint’. And for apricot, I love ‘Temple of Beauty’. And on my wishlist for next year is the coral pink-orange ‘Queensday’. I might need to set a reminder on my phone.
What are your favourite tulips? Do you have any favourite combinations?
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