TULIPS: SPOILT FOR CHOICE
We help you to decide from the huge variety available
THE tulip mania of the
17th century might be over, but tulips still command a tremendous amount of attention today. At planting time in November, gardeners flock to garden centres to take their pick of the tulips. With so much on offer the choice can be confusing. To make the selection process a little easier, I’ve been looking at which tulips the experts admire.
Sarah Raven has a very tempting autumn catalogue for mail-order shoppers. If you want to put on a show of more than one tulip, turn to her collections for help. Each year she groups together a stunning selection of tulips that will sparkle in any garden. I asked Sarah what her favourite tulips are, and she picked out three. “Tulip ‘La Belle Époque’ for its crazy fullness and extravagance, ‘Ballerina’ for poise and scent, and rich-crimson ‘Sarah Raven’ for class [of course] and perennial staying power,” said Sarah.
On my shopping list this year is Sarah’s new Honey and Smoke Tulip Collection, which includes ‘Jacuzzi’, ‘Brownie’ and one of her favourites, ‘La Belle Époque’.
Pots of success
Tulips are often the first choice for spring container displays. Container gardening expert Harriet Rycroft has tried many different tulips over the years, so found it difficult to pick a favourite. She says: “I have a different favourite every year. ‘Black Jewel’ is a sturdy, glossy-fringed tulip that first forms a neat, almost black egg shape, but as it opens the fringe shows itself and has an auburn tinge. This tulip picks up the colours of neighbouring orange tulips.
“Another contender is ‘Slawa’. This is a lily-flowered tulip that starts off maroon-flamed with purple and has dark orange tips. Then, as it ages, the orange intensifies,” adds Harriet.
If, like Harriet, you can’t decide on one tulip for your pots, plant two layers, so you can enjoy having double the display. As the top blooms start to fade, the bottom tulips take on the show.
No tulip conversation would be complete without a word from Philippa Burrough of Ulting Wick Garden in
Maldon, Essex. Thousands of tulips are planted every spring in her garden and you’d be hard pressed to find a more inspiring place to visit for tulip inspiration in spring. The tulip openings in 2019 are Sunday 28 April 11am-5pm and Friday 3 May 2-5pm.
“I love the late-season tulips, as the stronger spring light sets off their vivid colours. ‘Abu Hassan’ is a favourite when backlit by afternoon sun. It has a unique deep-mahogany colour with an edge of yellowy-gold that fades elegantly to white,” says Philippa.
“This year I am trying ‘Amani’ for the first time, as it looks like a deepred version of ‘Abu Hassan’. ‘Ballerina’ is a worthy garden favourite, as its lily-flowered shape and elegant leaves make it perfect for pairing with grasses and other delicate-leaved perennials. It also has a wonderful scent.
“Also, ‘Paul Scherer’ is a magical black tulip and, in my opinion, is better than ‘Queen of Night’ as it is darker and has a larger flower size.
“Tulipa ‘Jan Reus’ and ‘National Velvet’ are rich Venetian colours that blend so well with dark purple and orange tulips. Both are robust and last a long time, but ‘Barcelona’ is my favourite of the shocking-pink tulips, as it is again robust, long-flowering and has a beautiful flush of purple on the stem. I also have a soft spot for ‘Carnaval de Nice’ as it is such a delicate and feminine-looking tulip.”
AG columnist Val Bourne has an idyllic cottage garden in the Cotswolds, so I was keen to know which tulips she admired. “The one I love is the cool, green and white viridiflora tulip ‘Spring Green’. I use it in the shadier areas of the garden, among ferns. It’s perennial too and will pop up for several years,” says Val.
Can’t decide which tulips to buy? We reveal some of the experts’ favourites that you can try in your garden