Gardening Magazine

Flower Focus – The Big Tulip Review 2015

By Julie King

The tulip season is possibly the highlight of my gardening year – for a few weeks in April and May every bed is looking at its best – largely weed free and tidy and full of the color provided by these stately elegant flowers combined with the texture offered by the emerging perennials. As a grand finale to spring the tulips are a fitting tribute to our most longed for season of the year.


Single Early Tulip Purple Prince

Every year I try new varieties, plant more of my old favourites and play with color schemes around the garden, so I thought it would be useful to compile my photos into one post, which will hopefully help you to plan your tulip order for this years autumn planting.


Hardy Enjoying the Tulips

I use tulips in three ways in my garden:

  1. Flowing through established borders in the main garden,
  2. In regimented rows in the Cutting Garden,
  3. As the final layer of flowers in containers planted full of layers of bulbs in the autumn.

I take each category in turn when planning my tulip order in my garden notebook. I also bear in mind the flowering time (you can have tulips from late March to early May if you pick a variety of early, mid and late flowering tulips) and longevity. I find that the frilly and parrot tulips, although lovely, do not come back reliably in future years so I limit these to small plantings in the Cutting Garden.


An Orange River Flowing Through A Border

Tulips for the Main Borders

The tulips that  I choose for the main garden are a tried and tested selection that I have been growing for years and know will keep coming back. These old favourites include:

  • The single early Purple Prince grown with the slightly later flowering Shirley,
  • Dark tulips Queen of the Night, Recreado and Black Hero,
  • The late flowering Spring Green interplanted with the May flowering allium Purple Sensation,
  • The stunning orange lily flowered tulip Ballerina,
  • The classic white lily flowered tulip White Triumphator.

Single Early Tulip Purple Prince


Lily Flowered Tulip Ballerina


Viridiflora Tulip Spring Green

Each group of tulips are grown in their own area of the garden and seem to come back with vigour year after year. Purple Prince and Shirley have been a flowering combination now since the start of April that finally succumbed to the wild winds that were blowing last week.


Single Late Tulip Shirley

Tulips for the Cutting Garden


For the Cutting Garden I choose within four main color schemes: whites, pinks, oranges and darks. I have four large square beds and plant the tulips in rows around the edges of these squares. Each year I plan to dig up and replant one side of each square, so that there are always spectacular new tulips to choose from when cutting. The other three sides may well re-flower giving an abundance of blooms, but in the event that the old bulbs rot or split through the winter the freshly planted side will always guarantee a good show. In the smaller rectangular beds in the Cutting Garden I grow a selection of bulbs that did not fit into my main beds.


Darwin Hybrid Tulip Apricot Impression


Single Late Tulip Dordogne


Triumph Tulip Don Quichotte


Double Late Tulip Black Hero


Triumph Tulip Jan Reus


Tulip Black Parrot











Tulips and Other Bulbs for the Containers

I have been delighted with my containers this year. In the autumn I planted up layers of bulbs – iris, hyacinths and then tulips in each pot and I have had color from February. The tulips are just going over, so I will be emptying the pots ready to plant up the summer bedding that is waiting in the cold frames. I was concerned that the dying leaves of earlier blooms would ruin the tulip display, but they actually provided greenery and support to the tulips – an added bonus.




Tulip Angelique In A Container


Double Late Tulip Angelique





So what will I be ordering for next spring? I am currently looking back on my own photographs, perusing the catalogues that are appearing online (Gee Tee and Peter Nyssen have some interesting choices and Sarah Raven has a beautiful selection that will be revealed soon) and reading through other bloggers tulip reviews. I can recommend taking at look at My Hesperides Garden, The Blooming Garden and Owl House Flowers for some excellent ideas. I will certainly be following Christina’s idea (My Hesperides Garden) to force tulips in the greenhouse next winter and I am tempted to try more doubles and parrot tulips next season.

Please do leave comments with your favorite tulips and links to your own tulip reviews or any others that you think we would find useful – I look forward to hearing from you!

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