I’ve been getting a lot of joy out of my tulips during lockdown. In a garden where the perennial flower beds haven’t yet sprung to life and still look a bit like mounds of dirt, the tulips have been show stopping.
My first tip on growing tulips is to put them in pots, and put the pots somewhere you can see from inside or see regularly when going outside. This spring has been lovely and sunny, with doors open, but we aren’t always as lucky and it has still been windy, so it’s best to keep the blooms somewhere you can enjoy them from the warmth inside too.
My second tip is to mix up the varieties with early and late bloomers, so you have tulips from mid-April all the way through May. I also would add many more wallflowers and underplanted muscari next year. I loved the way this looked, plus it flowered early and kept going for weeks.
But if you just wanted to buy one type, my must have is Mystic Van Eijk. It’s huge, 2 feet tall with goblet flowers 15cm tall that start pinky apricot and streak to pale creamy pink with streaks of darker tones. Combined with Apricot Parrot to bring out darker pinks and La Belle Epoque for the creamier tones, it was a stunner.
This year I grew five pots of tulips, four of them in galvanised steel buckets we found at antiques fairs and online marketplaces. The fifth was a plastic barrel type container that was left with the house when we moved in but I’ve seen in garden centres. They are all pretty large, ranging from the smallest two being 45cm diameter and the largest, an oval planter, about 90cm x 45cm. I put 15 bulbs plus five wallflowers into the smallest ones and 50+ bulbs in the larger ones.
I’ll put the full list of all the varieties I grew below, but I think it’s easier to see them if I split between the five containers I grew, each with a different theme. All of them came from Sarah Raven.
From the biggest container to smallest:
Blousy Pink Cottage Style
Pink and White (these were bulbs from a B&Q packet, they were ok, but not the colours I’d have gone for if I thought about it more)
So one by one:
Blousy Pink Cottage Style
In a big oval galvanised tub, 90x45cm (ish, it is hard to measure when it’s full of tulips!)
10 La Belle Epoque (this is the one that last year was all over Instagram)
10 Apricot Parrots (this one is this year’s Instagram queen)
10 Mystic Van Eijk (the first to flower in my sunny spot)
10 Green Wave (this still hasn’t flowered 23 April but looks like it will take over when MVE and LBE go over)
This photo was from 9 April, Mystic Van Eijk showing their apricot pink goblets, stunning up against the mint green leaves. And the Apricot Parrot and La Belle Epoque just about to burst open.
This is Apricot Parrot, I've seen her all over Instagram this year, I think we will see her front page of all the catalogues next year!
Today, 23 April, you can see the Green Wave parrot tulips just announcing their arrival before they open up. The rest of the blooms are about to go over, they don't like this heat we've had. But having different tulips in one pot means I'll have more buds to look forward to opening in the next few weeks.
Even at night these ones were pretty!
In a smaller galvanised tub, 45cm circle. This one sat in full sun and bloomed the earliest of any tubs.
5 Sunset Apricot wallflower plugs
(something else that hasn’t opened yet and I have forgotten what it was! I’ll update when it opens)
I put all the wallflowers at the front of the tub, next year I’d disperse between the bulbs. But I definitely want more of these pretty apricot ones. Their papery petals and warm colour have been so pretty.
Green Star was a bit of a surprise for me, it wouldn't be what I'd normally go for, but it was really striking. There is something to be said for having lots of different shaped tulips, it draws your eye and makes it not look so 'samey'.
I did a feed on this bucket, with some seaweed feed I think, and you can see on my poor wallflowers where I left the water on their leaves in full sun and it scorched them and burned. That is a no-no. Always water direct to the soil and not in the middle of the day!
I did though, do my best to protect it from the full afternoon sun, to stop it from going over quite so quickly. It still was my first tub that the tulips lost their petals, two weeks from blooming.
In a large 80cm galvanised tub
Mixed Muscari (standard purple and in lilac)
Some Pink Star snuck in here too I think
This tub was used as a litter box in the winter, when our pampered housecat was too lazy to go into the cold garden to do her business. So I found bulbs dug up everyday. I tried lining it with branches poking up to make it more difficult but she is determined. I think squirrels also enjoyed this tub as some bulbs are just missing! The remaining bulbs didn’t get a good chance to root until January time, but it does show you can still get a show from late planted bulbs! The flowers were all shorter, and some a bit deformed, but it’s still one of my favourite tubs and the late blooming is helping draw out my tulip season.
The muscari really filled this tub in and made the copper pop. There's possibly some Pink Star in this one, just coming up, which will change the feel of the jewel tones and make it feel a bit softer.
I think this is a rogue 'Sarah Raven' tulip in with my Requests (another lily flowered one, but copper). I really like it! (And yes, the name of the tulip is Sarah Raven, named after the gardener.)
In a medium 50cm tub, this tub hasn't yet burst into bloom, these appear to be a bit of a later variety.
I would add under planting of wallflowers or maybe narcissus if I were to plant this again.
This was a ‘Fruit Salad’ Collection from Sarah Raven, but when they deliver their bulbs, they just come in packs of single varieties and you have to go back and find which collection they were supposed to go in, so I did my best to remember which goes with which. And this was quite pretty and still has loads of buds still waiting to come out mid/end of April so should give me blooms through May.
Last tub is a pink and white mix from B&Q, not sure the varieties, they are quite pretty but I didn’t like the bright pink against the white contrast as much as some other tubs.
So those are my tulips from this year, I'll write another post in Autumn when it comes time to plant, but this was a good way to share my favourites while still in bloom and in memory. Some sites let you order now and will delivery in the Autumn, so you don't forget!
Any questions about specific varieties let me know, I know the photos are a bit of a jumble, so I'll answer if I can, but I hope this helped give you some tulip inspiration!