I am a tulip devotee. I see them as a reward for getting through winter. They are a celebration life.
Each autumn I sit down with my JParkers catalogue and my Sarah Raven catalogue, and perhaps dip into the Avon Bulbs website too. I have two raised beds to play with.
A theme might start to emerge for each raised bed, and I might give each bed a name. This year, I came up with ‘Tutti Frutti’ for the bed to be filled with cherry and tangerine tulips, and ‘Flame Thrower’ for the bed to be filled with fiery reds, yellows and smoky plum.
I refine my plan, using Pinterest to look at colours and textures together.
In October, I choose a sunny day, and plant out the tulip bulbs into lovely crumbly compost and grit. Tulips like crumbly compost and grit.
Then I have to sit tight for five months. In January, I might notice just a little nub or two emerging from the compost. This will stretch and curl, and be joined by others. They will hold hands and dance, making patterns with their gorgeous glaucous blue-green foliage for the next two months. I will visit them every day in March to watch for the flower buds.
In April, they arrive.
It takes time for a tulip arrangement to come together. I find that in the first week of flowering that it is not how it was in my head. Tulips emerge at different times. Varieties that I pictured together can be out of sync so that one is still green and the other fully open.
The tulips surprise me with their differing heights. Sometimes the colour is not exactly as I had pictured in my head.
I bought a couple of new varieties on the back of them being related to my tried-and-tested favourites. I love ‘Princes Irene’, which is apricot with smoky plum feathering. I decided this year to try her sister, ‘Princes Magriet’ which is more yellow, with fuzzy peach feathering.
‘Slawa’ was my favourite tulip last year. I feel it is a slightly different colour this year. I know it changes as it ages; I remember it having more of a peach edging (and my photos confirm this in this post from last year).
This is one of the delights of gardening. Things are never the same twice. Different qualities emerge with different partners, in different lights, in different conditions. They are seen through different eyes.
Because I love ‘Slawa’ so, I tried its cousin, ‘Gavota’. ‘Gavota’ has the deep plum heart, but its edge is pale lemon. It is very handsome.
I always have a week of trying to identify a couple of rogue varieties, because my labels seem to rearrange themselves.
About two weeks in to flowering, I realise that they have done it.
The tulips have grown into themselves. They have grown together.
They have surpassed my expectations.
They stand together. They are all different; they have their individual identities, their incredible colours and textures and forms.
Individually they are beautiful.
But together they are spectacular.
Their colours and textures complement and contrast, adding depth and interest. They take up space around one another, dancing into new shapes. They shine brighter and more proudly, for being together in this.
I can’t help seeing this as a metaphor. You know I love a garden metaphor.
This is the first time in my living memory when a whole globe has stood together. We are each standing firm for the collective good. Every single person has recognised their part in this. We have our own individual circumstances, but we all stand together.
If we can do this for corona virus, imagine what else we can do together?
If we can slow down for corona virus, can we slow down more generally?
Can we be more observant? More connected to nature? More connected to one another?
Can we make sacrifices for the good of the planet?
Can we walk more, cycle more? Can we give way? Make eye-contact? Smile?
Can re-use the same resources, live with less stuff, take care of our clothes and possessions?
Can we grow more of our own food?
Can we share?
Can we be more kind, more thoughtful, more mindful?
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Earlier in the week, I made my first video garden tour. You can see that here.