I love tulips. I can enthuse about almost any sort, except those funny ones with fringed petals. Some people treat tulips like annuals, digging them all up once they have flowered which gives you the luxury and fun of choosing a whole new colour scheme next year. Fine plan but it comes expensive, not to mention time consuming. So I’ve been looking for tulips that you can leave year to year.
Species tulips in general are the gem like tiddlers, hailing from places like bare mountain slopes in Turkey. The hotter they bake during the summer, the better they perform. They hate to be wet so plant them somewhere free draining in full sun or plant them in pots, one sort to a pot and they’ll multiply with time and give you a great display every year. Sudden disappearances are almost always down to mice who love tulips more than life itself.
So what about the fancy tulips? A reliable friend from year to year is the orange ‘Ballerina’ which is unusual for a tulip in that it is scented. I plant it with red kingsblood. In this picture, the red tulips are flowering for their third and fourth season. This won’t be the case for all tulips and some, like parrot tulips never seem to come again although I have tried. I have just been to the Chelsea Flower Show and the Bloms stand was magnificent, with tulips of great opulence and beauty. I order loads and then usually forget what I have ordered but whilst I still remember it was several different shades of apricot and orange parrot tulips
For pots, I try different tulips each year. This candy stripe one is Carnaval de Nice. It looks like the sort of tulips you see in Dutch still life pictures
I’ve tried many different bulb suppliers. My favourite for tulips is De Jaeger, followed by Bloms. For more specialist bulbs, I use Avon Bulbs which have some beautiful species tulips. Try Battalini Bright Gem.