Tulipa species and dwarf hybrids

Small tulip species and their hybrids are some of the most charming of garden plants, but they tend to get lost to view unless they are in the confinement of pockets in a rock garden or of pots or troughs, where their miniature beauty can be appreciated. Nearly all are natives of central Asia. They range in size from the tiny Tulipa tarda, a mere 6 inches (15 cm) high, with white flowers with yellow centres, to T. clusiana (the lady tulip) with pointed white flowers flushed with crimson on the outside, which can grow to 16in (40 cm). The 7’. greigii hybrids often have the added interest of mottled foliage, such as ‘Red Riding Hood’, a small scarlet tulip with leaves striped in green and purple, and as spectacular in their season as any plant in the garden. The leaves are glaucous. But there is a fine variety with leaves striped in green and yellow. Yuccas like full sun and dry. Well-drained soil. A big pot with a yucca could stand sentinel over smaller pots of dark-leaved evergreens, such as rosemary and hebe.

English: Tulip, 2005 Floriade, Canberra

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T. kaufmanniana, a white, red and yellow tulip with reflexed petals, has many good hybrids, of which ‘Stresa’ is outstanding, with blood-red and yellow petals and mottled leaves.

Many of these dwarf species and hybrids flower earlier than the large garden tulips, and have a different visual value, being for close enjoyment rather than grand spectacle. I suggest that each species be planted by itself, not in a mixture, in well-drained soil in a sunny place, but if you like a tapestry, the tulips could be interlaced with grape hyacinths.

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