Ideas for working with tulips

We are in mid-tulip season. Tulipa ‘Albert Heijn’, one of the earliest to flower, is going over. He is a particularly luscious pink with a smoky sheen on the outer curve of the petals. His (and it probably should be ‘her’ with all that feminity but with a name like ‘Albert’ I feel compelled to stick with the masculine) foliage is a gentle grey green that matches the emerging foliage of Nepeta faassenii.

IMG_0754 Tulipa Albert Heijn with Nepeta at Easton Walled Gardens

As the flowers fade, the growth on the Nepeta picks up speed and engulfs the tatty, dying foliage of the tulip. We try and consider the effect of mounds of extraneous leaves when we plant our bulbs. Some alliums and large daffodils cultivars are the worst offenders and should be carefully sited where they won’t distract from nearby flowers in mint condition.

See how the tulipa and catmint foliage match?

Tulipa Aibert Heijn and Nepeta at Easton Walled Gardens

It took some research to come up with this combination and we will grow it every year in front of the alpine bed unless replant disease becomes a problem.

In the White Space Garden, Tulipa ‘Diana’ is in bud. Just a single, white tulip but one with a very long flowering period that means we choose her over other popular whites.

IMG_0961 white space garden tulip diana at Easton Walled Gardens

Early in her flowering she has the bed nearly to herself but as the petals fade she is joined by a chorus of silvers and whites.

EWG 28.5.15.-5 Tulip Diana flowering in the white space garden at Easton Walled Gardens

Here she is in close up:

EWG 1.5.14. Tulip Diana at Easton Walled Gardens

A new white tulip to me this year, is Tulipa ‘Exotic Emperor’, a fosteriana hybrid that I saw in pots at Coton Manor. The outer tepals streaked with green and the sumptuous creamy interior make this tulip worthy of a pot on its own.

IMG_0849 Tulipa Exotic Emperor

Another combination that I liked at Coton Manor is Tulipa Gavota with Ligularia foliage. A very fine tulip that we have used in our pickery or cut flower garden; it’s good to see it used here in a border setting.

IMG_0862 Coton Manor Gavota with ligularia

Back at home, Tulipa Ballerina is flexing her petals in the sunshine.

EWG 4.5.14.-10 tulip ballerina at Easton Walled Gardens

EWG 4.5.14.-12 tulip ballerina and wallflowers at Easton Walled Gardens

Wallflowers make an obvious complementary scheme but we do find them a bit hit and miss as we have a no-slug-pellet policy and, in a hard winter, the wallflowers may not make it. This image shows that even after the flowers are pollinated and the petals start to fade, Tulipa Ballerina is as elegant as her namesake.

IMG_0960 spring plant combinations tulip at Easton Walled Gardens

Tulips don’t need to be used formally. In our meadows and the woodland walk we use species, early and late tulips to complement the planting. Like the other tulips, these will need to be topped up every year. We order around 10,000 bulbs of which about 2,000 will be tulips.

You may also like: Spring Containers

Spring Containers

Using plants for spring containers.

After a winter of black grass, milky snowdrops and white double daisies, we have changed the planting in this terracotta pot for the technicolour flowers of spring. Blue anemones and muscari perfectly complement golden tulips. The colours are linked together in this spring container: golden tulips match the faces of the little viola and the whole is framed by white in the tulips and daisies.

Spring Container at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0878

This pot is placed in the corner of the little meadows outside the history room.

Osmanthus burkwoodii IMG_0885

Behind, the hedge Osmanthus burkwoodii is in flower. In between squally wintry showers, the sun is strong enough to bring out the scent from the small white flowers dotted along the stems. This shrub is fairly slow growing but will eventually make a dense evergreen hedge. Osmanthus hedges should be clipped immediately after flowering.

Tulips at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0879

Here’s a close up of the tulips. The purple white tall tulip is Tulipa ‘Blueberry Ripple.’ We have grown this for a few years (always from new bulbs each spring.) It is particularly good for pot work.

The golden apricot tulip is Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun.’¬†Usefully, it starts to flower just before the main tulip season. It’s distinctive feature is that it is multi-headed, so the flowers in the bottom left hand corner of the picture join to one stem. Those that were left in large containers for a second year didn’t manage to make big enough bulbs so they only have one flower.

Anemone blanda IMG_0882

Anemone blanda is, perhaps, a surprising choice for a pot but it has proved to be excellent. The clean blue-violet petals (for the botanically minded they are actually sepals) surround the yellow stamens which makes them very satisfying to look at. (Hence the latin name; blanda = charming.) Peeping out from their foliage is the double daisy Bellis perennis which has been in the pot for some time, flowering all the way from February to April without complaining.

Fritillary meleagris IMG_0881

Nestling into the foliage near the bottom of the pot is fritillaria meleagris. We have trouble with this beauty but are trying to get it established in the meadow along the river. Lily beetle, pheasants and slugs all like the taste. We grow a few in pots each year and then transplant them after flowering to the river meadow (also known as the ‘soggy meadow’ because it floods regularly.) We haven’t had great success but here’s a white form that survived this year so I am going to persevere.

white fritillary at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0890

Look at how elegantly the narrow leaves frame the flower; they swirl around the flower like a courtier doffing his cap.

Speaking of elegance, I wanted to include this picture of some of our very old daffodils in this meadow.

Narcissus barrii cv at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0892

We split the bulbs last year (after flowering but before they died right back) and have been rewarded with ten times the number of flowers this year.

Back to the pot, this scheme doesn’t need a huge container to work. Here are the same flowers, with a change of tulips (Tulipa ‘Apricot Beauty’), in much smaller pots outside the tearoom.

Spring containers at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0901

In this arrangement, the muscari are more prominent. This is Muscari latifolium (which could be loosely interpreted as a ‘musky grape hyacinth with broad leaves.’) Like Tulipa praestans ‘Shogun’ it flowers at a very useful time; after the big hyacinths but before the main tulip season. In the pickery we have combined it with the acid green flowers of Smyrnium perfoliatum (this time the latin means ‘pierced leaf’ – you can see that the stem appears to go straight through the leaf)

Smyrnium perfoliatum in the pickery at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0888

Here is Smyrnium on its own in the cottage garden sheltering under Rosa ‘Cottage Garden’ while we get on with jobs in the sunshine. It’s the epitome of the bright green new growth of spring.

Smyrnium perfoliatum at Easton Walled Gardens IMG_0897