We had a couple of very frosty mornings this week.

My tulips looked like they had been tossed and turned at sea. Their stems curved at bent at alarming angles. They looked like they were still swishing in waves. Tulips are nothing, if not dramatic.

Frosted tulips

They looked ship-wrecked.

Foreground: Tulip ‘Pretty Princess’; Left: ‘Roussillon’; Right: ‘Orange Cassini’

I often think of songs or poems as I wander around the garden.

This morning the tulips made me think of Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’. ‘The Tempest’ is a strange tale of shipwreck, magic, enslavement and release.

The central character, Prospero, has been banished by his people to a strange island, which he inhabits with his daughter, Miranda, a fairy sprite, Ariel, and a devilish slave, Caliban. Prospero dominates Miranda, Ariel and Caliban, bending their thoughts and abilities to carry out his will. Prospero seeks to avenge his former enemies, using Ariel’s magic to conjure a storm, aiming to wreck his enemies’ ship. There are a handful of survivors, who wash up on the island. Miranda encounters Ferdinand, one of the shipwrecked sailors. Her eyes are opened to a different way of life. There ensues a power-struggle, a little drug-induced debauchery and a justified rebellion. Prospero has to accept that his domination cannot continue. The play ends with him breaking his wand, tossing away his magic books, and asking to be released from his self-created struggle.

The parrot tulip ‘Rasta Parrot’ looked bent over and shackled by the frost. Listening; perhaps dreaming. He reminded me of poor Caliban.

Tulip ‘Rasta Parrot’ bent over in the frost.

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,

Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,

That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open, and show riches

Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,

I cried to dream again.

Caliban, Act III Scene ii

Parrot tulips have featherings of colour bleeding outwards from the centre of each petal. They also have a ruffled texture, with curls and fringing at the edges of the petals. Each one is totally unique. They create their own shape.

Left: Tulip ‘Attila Graffiti’, background: ‘Orange Cassini’, foreground ‘Rasta Parrot’

‘Cerise Parrot’ was one of the first tulips out, and after a few days of glorious sunshine, it threw back its wings. It is showing its central stile, and its petals are like billowing skirts. There is a smoky purple colouring at the heart of the flower. A bruised heart.

Tulip ‘Cerise Parrot’, slightly overblown, and frosted.

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes:

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong

Hark! now I hear them,—Ding-dong, bell.

Ariel, Act I, Scene ii

With damage, there is the possibility of transformation.

Tulips in the frost

Frosted tulips can look utterly doomed, utterly devastated.

But then the sun comes out.

Tulips recovering from frost

They raise their heads and straighten their backs.

Here are the glorious ‘Rasta Parrot’ tulips, each one making its own shape.

When I was choosing tulips for this bed, I wanted the most vibrant colours.

Tulips ‘Attila Graffiti’, ‘Orange Cassini’, ‘Roussillon’ and ‘Rasta Parrot’

The cherry red of Tulip ‘Attilla’s Graffiti’, the deepest ‘Orange Cassini’, and the swirling, whirling citrus tang of ‘Rasta Parrot’.

Tulips ‘Attila’s Graffiti’, ‘Orange Cassini’, ‘Rasta Parrot’, Cerise Parrot’ and ‘Roussillon’

The tulips make my heart sing. We are alive.

O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world

That has such people in ’t!

Miranda, Act V, Scene i

Tulip ‘Pretty Princess’, with ‘Orange Cassini’ behind.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and

Are melted into air, into thin air;

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

Prospero, Act IV, Scene ii

I hope you are finding small pleasures, though life is hard. I hope that you are taking time to notice the natural world: its colours and shapes, its rhythms and recovery.

You can ‘follow’ The Mindful Gardener by clicking on the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of this page. You will receive an email to tell you when a new post is published.

I aim to bring you little pops of wonder to help you through your day.

I publish one post per week, usually on a Saturday morning, so you can enjoy it with a coffee. Leave a comment below, or feel free to ask a question if you would like more information about any of the tulips featured in this post, or if you would like advice about growing tulips next year. They are easy to grow, and give so much pleasure.

21 Comments Add yours

  1. Trowels Global Garden &Photography Group says:

    Lovely tulips Ali so enjoyed reading your blog.My pots tulips are just leaves this yr.Should I plant then out into the border?

    1. Tulips are notorious for being weaker in their second year, and sometimes without flowers or just not appearing at all in the following years. A pot of compost can’t provide sustained nutrition. Also when I have removed old tulips bulbs from pots and raised beds, it is incredible how dry they are. So, yes, you could try planting them out in the ground where the soil will provide more nutrients, but even better would be to plant out fresh bulbs in the autumn. That way you will be guaranteed amazing flowers next spring. Tulips (alongside dahlias) are my big extravagance in the garden. I think every gardener should have at least one extravagance!

  2. Heyjude says:

    Nice to see you posting more often again Ali. Love your tulips with the exception of the parrots. I just cannot bring myself to like parrots, they are ugly flowers. And saying that two of my Rococo from last year have dared to flower again! I’m happy the tulips revived. My West Point and Lasting Love are hanging their heads from the rain these last two nights. Having been flowering for a couple of weeks now I think they might just call it a day!

    1. Yes, I seem to have got back into the swing of it, Jude. I think it was good to take the winter off, and I will do this every year. Yes, I hear a lot of people saying that parrot tulips look diseased! ‘West Point’ and Lasting Love are such lovely varieties. I have never grown ‘Lasting Love’ but have admired it in other gardens.

  3. bcparkison says:

    Amazing what a little sun shine can do. Your beds are beautiful even when blown sideways. My pot of pansies was just about gone …until I remembered to add water. lol

    1. Pansies are very resilient. I think they will forgive you. It’s lovely to hear from you again. I hope you are coping with this situation.

  4. joyceprime167 says:

    Thanks thatscaxlovely post. We are a little storm tossed at the moment. Loved the Shakespeare references – the Tempest is a greatJoyceSent from Samsung tablet.

    1. Thank you Joyce. I am glad you came along on the little adventure with me!

  5. Angela says:

    Just lovely. So is the Shakespeare–a marvelously inventive association.

    1. Thank you Angela. It is a joy to reconnect with my old Arden Shakespeare texts. I love how the garden pings me these opportunities.

  6. Jo Shafer says:

    Ah, a tempest, indeed, but then what a transformation when the sun dried up all the frost, much like Propero in due course. Yes, tulips do that, I’ve noticed. This year, however, I’ve seen few tulips bloom in my gardens. I use them within perennial beds so that, when their blooms are spent and the leaves begin to yellow, peonies take over. This year Virginia Woolf’s garden convinced me to try a few dahlias among the peonies and roses, and I think it’s about time to plant the bulbs next week.

    1. Peonies are the perfect follow-on from tulips, aren’t they? And it is great to hide the dying back foliage. Virginia Woolf’s garden is delightful, isn’t it? Do you have the book by Caroline Zoob? It is a really beautiful book.

  7. Tempest tossed though they may be, they are still glorious blocks of color – gorgeous!

    1. Yes, I love a bit of drama!

  8. Tempest and Tulips! What a wonderful way to start this Sunday. I once taught The Tempest to my eighth grade English students when I taught middle school. We had so much fun with that play. I love the transformation these tulips go through in your post, Ali. Gorgeous photos, as always.

    1. Aw, I have fantasies about being an English lit teacher.

      1. You would be a wonderful one, Ali!

  9. Anna Higgins says:

    Your tulips are glorious Ali. I have never read ‘The Tempest’ and must remedy that.

    1. It’s quite a fun one. Worth seeing on stage, I expect, though I don’t think I ever have.

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Gorgeous display beds, Ali! I’m surprised the parrots were short – I’ve always seen them as taller.

    1. Yes, these are short for parrots, you’re right. It seems to have helped them keep fresh, as they don’t get buffeted around.

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