My thoughts – Tulip combinations

There was a time when I didn’t really like tulips, I don’t even remember why but for many years now they are truly one of my favourite flowering plants.  I love them for their bright colours, for their beautiful flower shapes and because they flower early and tell me it is spring.

In England I would carefully work out the flowering periods and order to have the colours I needed spread over a six week to 2 month period, from Early April to Mid-May.  Here they grow differently, true I don’t have to left them when they have flowered and many will return year on year making it easier to fill the borders with colour but they flower for a much shorter time-frame, from the last week in March to the end of April if I am lucky.  In a warm spring as last year they flowered for perhaps three or four weeks.

Last autumn I was strong willed and ordered no new spring bulbs.  This was partly due to wanting spend the money on other things and more importantly I knew I needed to move and divide many perennials and thought I would be very short on time.  The fact that the weather remained very warm right up until December meant I could have found an opportunity to plant some.

It has been good to review which varieties really do perform well a second year and which need to be considered annuals.

I have decided to plant the varieties I know to be shy about a return visit in pots which I will place on the terrace to enjoy from the windows or even to plant in places where I will cut them to enjoy inside the house.

Those that are to be planted in the borders will need to be combined with plants that will grow to hide the tulips’ foliage when they have finished flowering which is not particularly attractive.

Another consideration which may seem strange to some non-gardeners is that I like blooms to dye well, by this I mean that the petals should turn an attractive colour and fall gracefully.  White blooms can be difficult in this respect as white blooms, of many different plants, turn brown.

Here are my thoughts on the tulip varieties I have grown over the last few years and the combination plants I have found successful.

Above is the boundary Photinia hedge with its orange, bronze new foliage with Rosa Westerland whose new foliage is a similar colour with T. Brown Sugar whose petals are a caramel colour.  There are more planted in an adjacent bed with muscari to give a contrast from some angles.  As ‘Brown Sugar’ dies, its petals look like a piece of iridescent silk, almost more beautiful than when they are first out.  Added to this almost all the bulbs planted in 2010 have flowered again this spring.   Tall orange Hemerocallis grow to hide the foliage as it dies back.

T. Brown Sugar with muscari

T. Brown Sugar dying with style

T. Linifolia Planted in 2009, most have flowered this year. They are low growing and suitable for rockeries so should naturalise everywhere. Small sedum grow to cover the foliage.

T. Negrita

Here T. Negrita is paired with a silver leaved Buddleia (I think it’s called Silver Wedding) and a very fluffy, silver leaved Artemisia.  The Negrita were planted in 2010 and I am almost sure there are more now than when I planted them.  Others I planted in 2009 in the circular rose bed are also flowering again although not so well and I think this is because the rose bed is irrigated in summer and the tulips prefer to be left in baking soil if possible.

Above, T. Pretty Woman planted on the upper drive bed – there are some Gaura here but what you can see is wild, self-sown Rocket.  Perfect I can pick the leaves and it will grow taller to hide the foliage of the tulips as they die back.

Fringed Lambada planted among Hemerocallis Stella d’Oro. These are a beautiful tulip, described by Peter Nyssen where I buy all my tulips and other bulbs as rhodonite red, margins chinese yellow. Thye have returned in the same numbers as planted in 2010 so well worth growing.

T. Lambada - close-up

T. Aladdin with Euphorbia mysenites - the perfect foil for many different tulips in my garden. I misnamed this pretty woman in my earlier post

Not many Princess Irene have flowered this year

T. Gavota or possibly Recreado another good companion for Euphorbia with T. Princess Irene

T Peerless Pink? planted with Queen of Sweden roses

I may have mentioned in posts about tulips last year that they have a strange habit of growth in my garden.  They begin to open their flowers while their stems are still very short.  I did wonder if this was due to the fat that this garden is very windy, however, until the last couple of days there hasn’t been much strong wind and the tulips have maintained this growth pattern.  The stems do grow with the tulips continuing to flower but it certainly makes them less elegant at the beginning.

Which varieties didn’t return?  Just as useful and important to know when planning a long-term display.  There was only one Fringed Blue Heron, however there were only a few last year I remember that these bulbs didn’t seem as good quality as the others when I planted them.  I like the colour so I may try again.

T. fringed Blue-Heron

Euphorbia rigida has swallowed most T. Double Dazzle but again worth planting again anyway.

There isn’t even any foliage to show where Double Early Peach Blossom flowered so beautifully last year.

The disappointment is lessened because I had thought they were something else and the colour wasn’t what was needed in the Small Island bed.

For more about early tulips in my garden this year see here.

There are more tulips yet to open so the season will last a little longer, I’ll post about them and their companion plants later.

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14 thoughts on “My thoughts – Tulip combinations

  1. Christina, absolutely magical… I’ve forwarded the link to Linda Lappin and Pat Smith who didnt know about your blog. hope to see you soon. I’m speaking at Linda’s USAC Creative Writing class on Mon. 16th morning.

  2. Hi Christina! You have some beautiful tulips there! I’ve realized that only the botanicals come back the following years in my heavy clay soil, however seeing your varieties really made me wonder! I especially enjoyed the Aladdin paired with euphorbia as well as the dark ones with e. rigida. Looking forward to seeing the next flush!

  3. I think tulips are one of those plants that you love when you first start gardening then become too sopisticated for and then love again when you are experienced. Tulips have a short bloom time here. I have good luck with the Darwin hybrids coming back year after year. Very happy with ‘Little Princess’ which seems to me multiplying.

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