The Birth of the Tulips

The cool weather this spring has meant that I have had to wait for the tulips.

Tulip ‘Hot Pants’

Tulips are beautiful at the bud stage (you can see them in previous posts in Tight Knit and Change).

The cool weather and lack of sunshine extended their period of unripeness. There was a pregnant pause.

But ever so slowly, they have been stretching out and colouring up.

Tulip ‘Antraciet’, with buds of ‘Black Parrot’

I have a little walk around the garden before work, and then do the same when I get home, and I can see the difference in a few hours. Ziggy is excited to show me!


Through the day, more and more tulips have emerged.

Nearest bed: Tulips ‘Margarita’, ‘Princes Irene’ and ‘Slawa’. Furthest bed: ‘Ollioules’, ‘Jacuzzi’, ‘Paul Scherer’.

The long wait was worth it. They are perfect in every way.

Tulips ‘Margarita’ and ‘Slawa’

I planted three raised beds with different combinations. The bed closest to the house is planted with rich pinks, oranges and warm apricots. The first to appear was ‘Margarita’. This is a delicious tulip. It has tones of apricot and plum within the more obvious pink.

Tulip ‘Margarita’

‘Margarita’ was soon joined by ‘Princes Irene’. ‘Princes Irene’ is one of my favourite tulips. I adore the cherry-plum feathering around the outer petals, and the light airiness of the peach tones when the sun shines through. I could gaze at this tulip for hours.

Tulip ‘Princes Irene’

There are deeper, darker tones of plum and burnt orange from ‘Slawa’.

Tulip ‘Slawa’, just opening.

They will soon by joined by ‘Apricot Parrot’ and ‘Apricot Foxx’, and the colour palette will subtley change. I love this developing picture with tulips. Hour by hour, they change.

Tulips ‘Margarita’ and ‘Slawa’

In the middle bed, I wanted to play with cooler tones of pink. The bluer, lilac tones. Iced pink, if you like.

Tulip ‘Blue Diamond’, ‘Paul Scherer’ and ‘Jacuzzi’

To balance the pale pastels, I added depth with the darkest tulip, ‘Paul Scherer’.

Tulip ‘Jacuzzi’ and ‘Paul Scherer’ (foreground) with ‘Blue Diamond’ and ‘Ollioules’ behind.

‘Paul Scherer’ is almost blue-black when fully ripe, and has an intriguing chalky lilac tinge when unripe. This is the joy of having to wait for your tulips: you get to know them intimately.

Tulip ‘Paul Scherer’

If you peer inside a tulip, you will find that each one has a mandala. A kaleidoscope, unique to this variety. There are often shocking tones of blue or green a the very base of the tulip, in a six-pointed star. There are six dark stamens, and a tricorn stigma at the very centre. This startling clarity contrasted with the swirling paint inside the petals is mesmerising.

Tulip ‘Jacuzzi’

The pattern inside a double tulip is partially obscured by the generosity of petals, but when the sun comes out, the petals relax, and you get a hint of what is inside. I adore this mauve smudge deep inside ‘Blue Diamond’.

Tulip ‘Blue Diamond’

In the third bed, furthest from the house, I have planted three old favourites. Darkest ‘Black Parrot’, cherry red ‘Antraciet’ and magenta and green ‘Dolls’ Minuet’.

Tulips ‘Antraciet’ and ‘Black Parrot’

‘Dolls’ Minuet’ is not fully out yet, but I am enjoying these tones: the pink just touched with orange.

Tulip ‘Dolls’ Minuet’

I will return to this bed next week, when it will be at its best.

Before I go, I thought I would share with you a special tulip birth. I noticed this strange shape in one of my pots at the front of the house.

On closer inspection, I found that the tulip flower had grown into a tightly-curled leaf. The flower bud was swelling, but had nowhere to go. The leaf had split with the force of the flower’s growth, and the flower bud was left with the cap of a leaf on its head, rather like a caul. It was so tightly stuck, I had to intervene. I carefully peeled away the leaf (you can see how tight it was!) and the flower emerged unscathed.

The birth of the tulips has been laboured and slow this year, but their emergence has been triumphant.

Like all newborns, these tulips will change every day. Already they are taller, fatter, fuller. I hope you will come back soon to see how the picture has evolved.

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57 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh, those gorgeous, gorgeous colours! I just want to rush out and do something creative with them all (can’t paint for toffee so it would have to involve wool!). What a truly spectacular show your tulips are, you must be so thrilled after all the hard work of planning and planting, Ali. I could spend hours gazing at them, I’m definitely inspired to plant many more here for next spring. Hope you can spend the holiday weekend relaxing in all that floral beauty you’ve created! 🙂

    1. Your response made me smile, Lis: a fellow tulip enthusiast! I am really happy with the results. I took your advice yesterday, pulled up a deckchair and just gazed upon them for an hour. Then I did some yoga with them!

      1. . . . and repeat! Utterly perfect! 🙂

  2. Ann Mackay says:

    How beautiful! Love the photographs of Jacuzzi and Blue Diamond especially – and the range of colours that you have! (Now I have tulip-envy!) Looking forward to seeing how they change… 🙂

    1. I’m pleased with the lilac tones too. ‘Blue Diamond’ has proved a real treasure – very long-lasting, and I like the way it is changing.

      1. Ann Mackay says:

        I’m going to have a long list of the new flowers, especially spring bulbs that I want for the garden…hehe!

      2. I always have a long list too! It gets shaved down when I see the bulb catalogues!

      3. Ann Mackay says:

        Hehe! I’ll be working on mine…

  3. So beautiful. A great way to start my day–though walking in the garden sounds better.

    1. Ah, thanks Angela. I do love a little wander around the garden – several times a day on a weekend!

  4. Maggie Frost says:

    Lovely, lovely tulips. May I ask about the “grit” that you mix with the dirt in your pots? Is this an agricultural product from a farm store or garden center?

    1. It’s horticultural grit, which I buy in bags, usually on a 3-for-2 offer. It is fairly expensive; sand is another option. Anything to thin the soil and improve drainage.

  5. These tulips are crazy beautiful. I love it when Ziggy photo bombs.

    1. He does it so often! I love the expression ‘crazy beautiful’!

  6. What a glorious display of tulips like I have never seen in anything but except a garden/mansion tour. You have outdone yourself and must be over the moon with joy at the show of color.
    Even though you all started your spring weeks before we did, we are now caught up with you as ours has been pleasantly warm once it got going. My tulips have emerged in the last 2 days, but mine are nothing compared to your stunning display. It is such a shame they don’t last longer. With your cool weather maybe you can get a few extra days out of them. Enjoy and thank you for sharing. I feel like I’ve been to a private garden tour.

    1. You are so kind, Cindy! I am delighted to take you on this tour. How about tea and cake in the café now? It’s interesting how nature can speed things up or slow it down, and is so adaptable, isn’t it?

      1. I’d love to have tea and cake in the cafe. What a delight it would be.

      2. I’ve got a lovely simnel cake on the go!

  7. A gradual rebirth of spring is an unfolding of more joys yet to appear. My red tulips in the English beds began a couple of weeks ago, but not all at once. Others join the first ones, a few at a time, and still to arrive are “peony tulips” in pinks and purples. In the front entry garden bed, however, yellow and white tulips are just emerging since Tuesday. That bed is edged in purple grape hyacinths for quite a delightful contrast. Peonies are several inches up, and purple violets are peeping through. It’ll be Easter here after all!

    1. Debbie Jutsum says:

      Looking lovely, great colour combinations!

      1. Thank you Debbie; I am glad you liked my colour combinations.

    2. It’s all so exciting at Easter time, isn’t it? It is often the time things really take off, and we move outside for the season. I love it.

  8. Jill Kuhn says:

    Your tulips are a delight to my eyes, Ali!! Princess Irene is my fav but they are all the colors and shapes are so lovely!! It makes me want to paint them in watercolor, perhaps I will this weekend! 🌷💕🎨🌈🦋

    1. That is so lovely to hear, Jill! I will take a peek at what you have done!

      1. Jill Kuhn says:

        I hope to post something on Monday! 🌷💕

      2. Your watercolour is gorgeous, Jill! I love seeing the painting at various stages. You have completely captured these tulips, and the complexity of their colouring.

      3. Jill Kuhn says:

        Thanks Ali! 🌷💕 Your gardens are such a delight! 😃

  9. Liz Malone says:

    A friend of mine felt that tulips were early this year – are you being impatient to see this truly spectacular display?!!

    1. They looked like they were going to be early, Liz, and then a cold snap slowed them right down. They were about average for me in Kent. It generally is the second to third week in April when they come out in number.

  10. Heyjude says:

    Having three different beds is sheer luxury Ali – I love the third bed with that delightful ‘Dolls’ Minuet’ and I am very keen on ‘Paul Scherer’ and ‘Princes Irene’. So many gorgeous tulips it is hard to choose just a few. Will you leave these in the beds then for next year, or remove them to plant annuals for the summer? My tulips have been in flower for a while now and the last ones have just opened as the first ones go over. In the heat I don’t think they will be around for much longer.

    BTW Where do you buy your lovely obelisks from?

    1. That is a very good question, Jude! I did leave them in one year, and they flowered pretty well the second year. But when I dug them out after two years, the soil was very compacted and dry. That year I had grown dahlias over the top, and the dahlias coped fine. This year, I have more annuals. At the moment I am edging towards throwing caution to the wind and digging the whole lot up. I don’t store my tulips because I have just never had much success that way. So I will confess quietly to you that I will probably order new next year. They will be my birthday and Christmas present combined!

      1. Cathy says:

        Thank you for admitting (quietly!) that you will probably just dig your tulips out and replant next year – after seeing those at a friend’s that reliably return and knowing that mine don’t has nearly confirmed things in my own mind, but I will try planting some even deeper first and boost the numbers of species ones too. Those in pots will just come out though

      2. I remember reading in Carol Klein’s ‘Life in a Cottage Garden’ how she treats them as an annual, and finding this a huge relief. I decided that if Carol Klein could justify it, so could I!

      3. Cathy says:

        Hurrah for Carol Klein!

      4. Yes. She is my gardening heroine.

      5. Cathy says:

        I gaven’t read her book but perhaps I ought to… ps what news on your NGS journey?

      6. I think I have decided to stick to one opening day in June, given my new work commitments, so will be contacting our area lead in a couple of weeks to arrange a viewing.

      7. Cathy says:

        That’s probably a good idea in your first year, to give yourself the chance to see how this commitment and your new work commitments work out

  11. Emma Cownie says:

    Ah, what a feast of colour. Tulips are a beautiful flower. Your photos are like paintings! Wonderful.

    1. Funnily enough, I have just finished writing a post on exactly this, Emma! I think they allow me to indulge the frustrated artist in me.

  12. Gabriella says:

    I’m inspired to attempt my own grandiose tulip plantings this autumn after reading this! Can I ask what you are planning for these beds once the tulips are over? Will you leave the bulbs in and plant over them?

    1. Oh do! It is such fun! You ask a very good question, Gabriella! I have left bulbs in before and grown dahlias over them. The dahlias grew well, and the tulips flowered pretty well the second year. However, pure greed and gay abandon is pushing me into playing with new tulip combinations next spring! So I will dig the tulips up, and fill the bed with annuals raised from seed (cosmos, zinnia, cornflowers, scabious, sweet peas, morning glory and amaranthus are currently in the greenhouse!) then I will plant new tulip bulbs in November once I have pulled up the annuals.

  13. They are beautiful Ali, im enjoying watching them blooom in my garden here but nice to see different varieties. Enjoy.

    1. There are just so many varieties to enjoy, aren’t there?

  14. Island Time says:

    Beautiful tulips! Thank you.

    1. It’s my pleasure (indulgence) to share!

  15. Oh my word! I am amazed that there are mandalas in each tulip. I had no idea! Also, I love that there is a tulip called Paul Scherer.

    1. Aren’t they wonderful? The perfect focus if you are feeling in a contemplative/meditative mood. I had no idea who Paul Scherer was, but a little google has enlightened me – thank you!

  16. bcparkison says:

    Beautiful. Now what will replace them in the large beds.?

    1. I’ve got seedlings growing away in the greenhouse: cosmos, scabious, zinnia, amaranth, cornflowers. And sweet peas are already sprouting up around the obelisk supports you can see in the photos. I will let the tulip foliage die back a little, then dig out all the bulbs (a big job!) and then in late May will transplant my new plants into the bed.

  17. Cathy says:

    The massed beds of tulips are gorgeous., Ali – I hope you will be picking some to bring inside to enjoy…

    1. Do you know, Cathy, I find it so difficult to pick them! This is the point of a raised bed cutting patch, but still I find I want to leave the display outside! I know I will really enjoy having them on the kitchen table, so it is silly of me. We have spent the entire long weekend outside so that I can be near them!!

      1. Cathy says:

        It used to be hard for those of us who do produce a vase on Monday, Ali, but the pleasure of having blooms to admire in the house as well makes it more than worthwhile

      2. I cut some for my mum and my neighbour, Cathy, and I don’t regret it! They look so gorgeous in a bucket together! (The tulips, not my mum and neighbour!)

      3. Cathy says:

        An interesting vision of that bucket, Ali 😁 Glad you felt able to pick some – it will probably be tulips in my IAVOM tomorrow

      4. I look forward to that, Cathy!

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