Painting with Tulips

I can’t paint, or draw, and my crafting skills aren’t up to much. The garden is my creative outlet.

Cherry blossom with tulip bed (and Ruby) behind.

More than any other flower, tulips bring out my playfulness. I can play with combinations of tones and textures. I can’t imagine ever getting bored.

Tulip ‘Margarita’ (centre) surrounded by ‘Slawa’ and ‘Apricot Foxx’. Behind are ‘Ollioules’, ‘Paul Scherer’ and ‘Jacuzzi’.

For the raised bed closest to the house, I wanted cherry, orange and apricot tones. Let’s call this bed ‘Tutti Frutti’. This is how it looks early in the morning, before I go to work. I love the fresh greens with the light shining through.

In the morning light: Tulips ‘Apricot Foxx’, ‘Slawa’ and ‘Margarita’

‘Slawa’ has become a firm favourite. It reminds me of a blood orange, with its deep red stain on the petals. This picture was taken just as it had opened. The flower is still quite short and tight-fitting at this stage. Newly opened tulip petals have a slightly pallid, waxy quality.

Tulips ‘Apricot Foxx’ and ‘Slawa’ with ‘Margarita’ behind.

A couple of days in the sun reassure them. They start to trust in the world. They feel the warmth on their petals and just can’t help but open their arms to the sun. They grow taller, stretch their petals wider, develop their true colours. They take on the texture of silk, and let the sun shine through them to illuminate them.

Tulip ‘Slawa’ with ‘Margarita’ behind.

‘Slawa’ is like bold splashes in the foreground of my painting. I love its confidence.

Tulips ‘Slawa’, ‘Apricot Foxx’ and ‘Margarita’

There is subtlety too. Look at the finest detailing at the edges of the cherry-red splash.

Tulip ‘Slawa’

It is perhaps even more beautiful inside.

Tulip ‘Slawa’

I had one beautiful accident in this painting. I don’t know how this lone star got here, but I am glad she did.

She has the most delicious paint-swirls of all. Blackcurrant swirled through double cream.

I love the oil paint quality of ‘Paul Scherer’. He is satin to his partners’ silk.

Tulips ‘Paul Scherer’ (black-purple), ‘Jacuzzi’ (pale lilac single) and ‘Blue Diamond’ (double, at the back)

There are still a couple of varieties to come. This is ‘Christmas Marvel’. It is a wonderful shimmery satin plum.

Tulip ‘Christmas Marvel’

And this is ‘Louvre Orange’, a fringed tulip.

Tulip ‘Louvre Orange’

In the middle bed, I planted cooler pinks with white and lilac. Iced pinks, if you like.

Tulips ‘Blue Diamond’, ‘Olioulles’ and ‘Jacuzzi’

For depth, I added the near-black ‘Paul Scherer’. Without him, the bed would be a sugary confection. He adds a touch of cassis.

Tulip ‘Paul Scherer’. Ziggy in a moment of contemplation.

Tulip ‘Blue Diamond’ is ageing beautifully. The edges of the petals are just etched with silver, as if they have been engraved. They shimmer.

Tulip ‘Blue Diamond’

Tulip ‘Hot Pants’ is living up to the name. I do love a picotee edge.

Tulip ‘Hot Pants’

The markings are like a lipstick smudge.

Tulip ‘Hot Pants’ with ‘Paul Scherer’

The third raised bed of tulips was not planned. These tulips were intended for my bright border. I couldn’t find space between the established plants there. Our clay soil had been hard-baked during the summer, and digging was difficult. To be honest, I ran out of steam, and knew I wouldn’t do a good job of planting them. The easier option by far was to fill a third raised bed.

This is ‘Dolls’ Minuet’, swirling and twirling at the centre of the bed.

Tulip ‘Dolls’ Minuet’

And this is one of my all time favourites, ‘Antraciet’.

Tulip ‘Antraciet’

The colour of ‘Antraciet’ can vary between cherry and deepest, darkest crimson, depending on the light. I tried to capture this difference by adjusting the aperture for this photo.

Tulip ‘Antraciet’

This is ‘Black Parrot’. You can see how it got its name.

Tulip ‘Black Parrot’

Out of the three beds, my favourite is ‘Tutti Frutti’. I love the colours, and I really packed in the tulip bulbs, giving a fullness and richness.

‘Apricot Parrot’ and ‘Christmas Marvel’ are still ripening, so the painting will change again.

Tulip ‘Apricot Parrot’

The process, in gardening, is always more important than the end product.

Tulips ‘Slawa’, ‘Apricot Foxx’, ‘Margarita’, ‘Christmas Marvel’, ‘Princes Irene’ and ‘Apricot Parrot’

Here are some great splodges of ‘Margarita’ to really illustrate the joy of being a tulip!

Tulip ‘Margarita’ with ‘Apricot Parrot’ and ‘Slawa’

I hope you have enjoyed swirling paint colours of tulips. I aim to have fun in the garden, and it is only just starting. Soon there will be peonies, roses, geraniums…

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66 Comments Add yours

  1. What a fabulous canvas, Ali. Those colours are delicious, I’m drooling! Love the blackcurrant ripple smudge, that’s my kind of artwork. Enjoy that beauty you’ve created – hope the deckchair is still out! 🙂

    1. Cathy says:

      Wonderful, wonderful and wonderful! Particularly excited about Apricot Parrot as I am waiting for mine to open. Well done on all that bulb planting – it really has paid off. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Thank you Cathy! ‘Apricot Parrot’ is really interesting in all its phases. Mine have now thrown wide their wings in the sunshine, and are sky-diving!

    2. Isn’t the blackcurrant gorgeous? I have practised my yoga with my tulips every day this weekend! It has been lovely.

  2. Cathy says:

    I agree – the process is a joy in itself. And I too create in the garden rather than paint or draw and like artists we develop our own style, our canvases as Lis calls them. I am fascinated by T ‘Louvre Orange’ and must check if Peter Nyssen sells this one.

    1. It just gets more beautiful, as well. Now that it is fully open, it has a cherry glow to the outside of the petals, which really sings with the orange fringe! The fringe is fascinating – it is like a parrot, but as if someone has not only taken scissors to it, but bent the fringe over too. What wonderful accidents there are in hybridisation!

  3. Gabriella says:

    You write: “I can’t paint, or draw, and my crafting skills aren’t up to much. The garden is my creative outlet.”
    Don’t forget your writing and photography skills! They are pretty impressive!

    1. Ann Mackay says:

      Absolutely! Your descriptions and your photographs are both excellent and make reading your posts a joy (as is seeing your beautiful garden), so you have multiple creative outlets. 🙂 And they work extremely well together! 🙂 🙂

      1. Ann, you say the nicest things. Thank you so much for your presence here; I really appreciate your comments and conversation.

      2. Ann Mackay says:


    2. Thank you Gabriella, I am glad you think so! I do love to write, and photography has been a more recent discovery. I have a lot of fun in the process.

  4. Beautiful! You have a lot of tulips! The photos are gorgeous as always. x

    1. I have been a complete greedy guts this year, but unlike after any other binge, I am unrepentant and I don’t feel sick!!

      1. Will you have to lift them all?

      2. I think so! Wish me luck!

      3. Good luck indeed. We are really lucky to have dry silty soil so a lot of varieties stay in all year round.

      4. I have noticed that tulips do well in the beds next to the house wall where it is very dry and dusty.

  5. Ali. I have a question. Do you leave the tulips in the garden year after year or do you dig them up? Also do you treat them as Annuals and buy fresh every year? Some people say you should treat them as annuals

    1. bcparkison says:

      Good guestions. I would like to know too.

    2. I have done both. They are generally ok the second year, just a bit thinner. The third year you really notice that there are gaps. The exceptions seem to be the viridifloras, especially ‘Spring Green’, and ‘Ballerina’, and ‘Brown Sugar’, which come back again and again. However I think I have decided to dig up the ones in the raised beds and choose new combinations next year. It is very indulgent of me, but I would choose tulips over other luxuries!

      1. Thank you. You really have a great collection of tulips.

      2. I have done well this year!

  6. Such loveliness!!! What I would like to know is what you will do with these raised beds once the tulips have finished blooming? Will you let the plants die down naturally to rebloom next year? Or will you replant these raised beds with something for the summer months? If you replant, what will you do with all the bulbs?
    It is such a beautiful display of extravagant color. It is only too sad it doesn’t last a lot longer.

    1. I have left them for a second year before, and they did quite well. But I think this time I will dig them up and start afresh next year, so that I can play with new colour combinations. It is going to be a big job! Very good question about all the bulbs. Some I will try to replant, but there are so many that I will let them rot in their own compost pile for a very long time. That makes me feel a bit guilty, but they do start to decline and rot in the ground in their third year, so I will excuse myself!!

  7. bcparkison says:

    Just beautiful . How long is the show.

    1. It’s not long – I try to plant a mixture of early, mid and late-flowerers, but it is not an exact science! They were slow to get going, so the early stage lasted a while, say two weeks. They are at their prime for two weeks, but are starting to get a little sunburnt now. I guess the full display lasts three to four weeks, five if you are lucky.

      1. bcparkison says:

        Do you dig the out or leave them and plant around them

      2. Both! I leave them in my borders, but I will dig them out of the raised beds. Just because I want to grow different ones next year.

      3. bcparkison says:

        oops found the answer in another comment. thanks.

  8. Well, I can paint, but I can’t garden! Wow your tulips are incredible!! I love the way you photographed them, and I have pinned several of your gorgeous pics for future paintings, thank you!!

    1. I’m so pleased you liked them, Jenna, and delighted you pinned them. I would love to see the paintings!

  9. pattyanneart says:

    Absolutely beautiful!!Thank you for sharing.

    1. You are welcome, Patty, it is a pleasure.

  10. It is a lovely time of year. You have created a lovely collection.

  11. Beautiful colors, Ali! Your Tulip ‘Antraciet’ is the color of my budding peonies in the front garden bed.

    1. I think that may be why it is one of my favourites!

  12. Heyjude says:

    Ali, you paint with pictures and words. Good enough for me!
    ‘Slawa’ is another beauty and I do like the blackcurrant ripple! Your combinations are truly gorgeous and I have to keep scrolling up and down this post to take it all in.

    1. That is a lovely thing to say, Jude. Thank you.

  13. M.B. Henry says:

    Such beautiful pictures! I just love tulips

    1. They are a treat, aren’t they?

  14. Pamela Brown says:

    You have made my day with all of this color and beauty! Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. That is so lovely to hear, Pamela. Thank you!

  15. Brian Skeys says:

    A wonderful tulip display, they are so rewarding to grow. I think my favourite would be Hotpants.

    1. It has changed too; the pink has spread across the petals as it has matured.

  16. Jodi says:

    WOW! More beauty than I can handle!!! 🙂

    1. A great state to find yourself in! ❤️

  17. I loved learning the names of all the different tulips. I went on a walk today, and at the very end, I stumbled upon a bed of brilliant tulips. I got all these lovely photos of them and can’t wait to use them in a blog post sometime. I thought of you. I loved the picture with your pup in the background. Adorable!

    1. Ah, I look forward to seeing your tulip pics, Shelly! Ziggy is very good at stealing the show!

  18. Jill Kuhn says:

    I am in color heaven with your tulips!! 🌷 So lovely, Ali!! ❤️

    1. I am glad you enjoyed them, Jill.

  19. Gardening, wordsmithing and photography are your artistic outlets! Great post, beautiful flowers and photographs!

    1. Thank you Martin! That is very kind.

  20. Emma Cownie says:

    A feast for the eyes!

    1. Glad you thought so, Emma!

  21. margaret21 says:

    Wonderful. Definitely not ‘painting by numbers’.

    1. No – every one is delightfully different!

  22. Rupali says:

    Your garden is amazing Alison.
    Your hardwork and creativity is boundless.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Rupali.

  23. These beautiful, beautiful flowers exhibit all the leadership skills you are talking about in that essay, Ali – they are embodied determination, ambition, and drive. And they are also pure inspiration, just like your writing and your photography.
    P.S. You are probably aware that “slawa” means glory is Russian. They are indeed glorious. I have planted Tompouce this year and am smitten – have you tried them? (happens to be the name of a Dutch pudding, pink and cream, possibly too sweet ;-))

    1. I had never thought of that, but I guess they are! Thank you Katya! And thank you so much for translating ‘Slawa’! That suits them perfectly! I will look out for ‘Tompouce’ – that is a new one to me. Love the name – who can resist a tulip named after a pudding? Ooh, imagine! Eton Mess, rhubarb and custard, raspberry ripple…

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