Tulipa hybrids

It is pointless to select a handful of tulips from the thousands available, and probably the gardener already has his favourites -perhaps charming little species for a rock garden, or handsome Darwins for a splash of spring bedding. Here I restrict myself to choosing two kinds of tulip of which I am particularly fond, lily-flowered tulips and parrot tulips.

Lily-flowered tulips have narrow, slender flowers with long pointed petals which reflex when open; being less ostentatious than Darwins, they blend better with other flowers in a mixed border, providing colour in late spring when the summer perennials are still in the foliage stage. My favourite variety is ‘Captain Fryatt’, a claret-coloured tulip 18 inches (45 cm) tall with slender but strong stalks which stand up well to the wind. A group of at least ten bulbs would go well near a group of the pure white ‘White Triumphator’, with the leaves of hardy geraniums or delphiniums pushing up between. There are other lily-flowered varieties in violet, pink, purple, gold and red. I leave mine in the border for two years, but after that they tend to decline.

My other choice – a vulgar one to many – is parrot tulips, because they recall the old fringed and stripy tulips in Dutch flower paintings. My parrots. It is true, are modern hybrids, with large fringed flowers which repel some connoisseurs, but I revel in them. ‘Fantasy’ is a rose-pink tulip with a green stripe, flowering in late spring, and in some years I grow them in a formal row in a narrow bed under a wall with (we all have our cliches) forget-me-nots. A more brilliant variety is ‘Orange Favourite’, orange-scarlet feathered with green. Although it is claimed that the modern parrot tulips have strong enough stems to carry the flowers, I think they are safer planted out of the wind.

Follow the usual planting instructions for bulbs: well-drained soil and holes three times the depth of the bulbs. Plant tulips about 6 inches (15 cm) apart.

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