Flour and Flowers | A Kitchen and Garden Blog

In Focus: Tulips

Tulips are a new love for me.  Until last year, I thought of them as limited, formal flowers – always so proper and well-behaved.  Certainly not something I would pursue in my own garden.  No rows upon rows of perfectly cupped tulips marching in my wild, cottage-style beds.

Last Spring, though, as I was busily discovering all of my new plant friends in my new yard, some unexpected things emerged.  First came the three white tulips by my front door, shortly joined by several silvery purple tulips all nodding together.  These were intriguing – they opened only when the sun shone, and the more sun, the farther they opened.  On the best days, the white tulips opened nearly flat, and showed their greenish-yellow centers.  These weren’t the tulips I knew!

Then, red tulips with black centers! These were along the border of my front walk, just a few little clumps with one and two flowers – only three all together, but so stunning! The shock of the bright red petals in contrast with the grass behind, in a sparse bed with only the slowly-opening hostas for company – these were incredible.

And then there were the soft, pale pink ones in the center bed.  So faintly pink they were only visible against the backdrop of bright green iris leaves.  These were much smaller and shorter.  Not shocking, just calm and peaceful.

And THEN! Oh, and then. Around the corner, on the north side of the house where no one should have planted anything that requires full sun, and yet there they all are – there I found the lily-petaled flame-colored tulips.  These had pointed petals instead of rounded ones, and never bothered to cup at all.  As they matured, their petals twisted together at the tips, and once they were opened, they stayed open, waving and nodding and showing their fiery petals to the world.  These were truly spectacular.

One season of inherited tulips and I became a convert.  But everyone says tulips aren’t true perennials – that they bloom so well the first year, and then poorly or never again.  So I worried – was this a one time spectacle?  Was I falling in love only to be let down in another Spring? So I hatched a back-up plan.  I got more tulips, and I planted them all over the place. I got three purple ones to add to my purple bed, and pink and apricot ones to join the pale pink ones, and white and yellow ones to put with the white-blooming shrubs in the back. I found doubles and emperors and triumphs and Darwins, and I said to myself “If what it takes to have tulips is planting tulips every year, I will make it worth while.”

All but one of my tulips from last year bloomed again.  And several others that I’d forgotten about, as well as several that didn’t bloom last year but sent up leaves that I hadn’t identified.  And every single one of my newly planted tulips bloomed as well.  This Spring has been an astonishing wealth of tulips.  And I’ve already started a list of the new additions to plant this fall.

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