Tulips For Flower Arrangements

Tulips are one of the pillars of flower decoration in the late spring. Reliable, usually stout stemmed, coming in a variety of colours, and always with good, green leaves, they will add colour and dignity to any vase of flowers.

During the seventeenth century in Holland the well known Tulip Books were being painted. They are, in fact, illustrated catalogues of the tulips then available for purchasing. At this time one could have not only striped tulips (the British Museum has a water colour drawing of one in dark red and white) but also ones with coloured borders and in plain colours. In a painting reproduced in Thornton’s Temple of Flora (1799-1807) there is a group of tulips which are like Joseph’s coat of many colours — a yellow tulip with dark purple lines at the edges, another striped with blue purple, and yet another in what seems to be a rose-pink with white stripes. Describing them in his text, Thornton sadly remarks on the inability of the artist to depict truly the wondrous colours of these splendid flowers: ‘How much does the imitative painting fall short in trying to represent these ravishing beauties of the vegetable world’.

Nevertheless the Dutch painters of the time did depict this beauty fairly effectively, for we feel that we know the striped tulips in the paintings of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Abraham Bosschaert and Ambrosius Bosschaert the Younger. Balthasar Van der Ast, Jan Van Huysum and Nicholas van Veerendael. In their military colourings these tulips are reminiscent of regiments of cavalry standing proudly out amongst the softer tones and shapes of the roses, bluebells, love-in-a-mist, and butterflies.Tulips For Flower Arrangements

Present day tulips come in an unbelievably wide range of colours, from the primary shades of clear, bright pillar-box red, sunshine yellow, and white, to the secondary colours of orange and deep purple, to the ‘mixtures’ of pink, cream, rose, ruby, scarlet, crimson, etc.

There are plain tulips, tulips with pointed petals, tall tulips and short tulips, and tulips with frilled edges or striped petals. One of the most enchanting for flower decoration is, to my mind, the small pink and white striped Tuhpa clusiana. It is charming arranged either with other late spring flowers or on its own. It grows happily in any pocket of a rock garden or in clumps at the front of a border (only if the border is well drained and in a sunny position).

Some of the early flowering tulips (those out in April as opposed to the May flowering ones) especially the cream, white and yellow ones, combine well with daffodils, and the soft yellow of primroses. The May flowering tulips are usually out about the same time as rosemary, guelder rose and some of the brooms (Genista). In a pale yellow they are especially attractive with rosemary and the yellow flowered berberis, while the off-white or cream shades are enchanting with the guelder rose — especially before it is quite out and when it still has a tinge of green in the flower-head.

For bolder and brighter colour schemes clear red tulips can be arranged with equally bright and contrasting yellow forsythia, as well as the crisp blue early flowering Californian lilac (Ceanothus). Shorter scarlet tulips can be combined with grape hyacinths, Anemone fulgens and rosy sprays of japonica. Pink tulips contrast charmingly with white lilac and tone in with the mauve or deep purple kind. They are also a good contrast in shape with the early tree-peonies (rose, pink and white or creamy-pink). Salmon-pink tulips can echo the colour of the salmon tufted eucalyptus and, in any case, stand out against the usual blue-grey of the eucalyptus foliage. The salmon-orange variety go well with the same tones in clivias, and the bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia) make a splendid show with the more yellow orange tulips.

Besides these, there are so many more possible colour schemes, but of course all depend on the material available.

Below is a list of available tulips from which to make a selection for growing in the garden, and of course ultimately for cutting:


  • Pink Beauty, deep glowing pink with a snow white flush on the outer petals, about twelve inches in height.
  • Prince of Austria, bright brick-red shading to orange. Long lasting flowers, sweet scented. Proserpine, large satin rose flowers, white based, one of the best available.
  • Rising Sun, large, well formed, deep yellow flowers on strong stems, is about sixteen inches in height, good for cutting.
  • Princess Irene, distinctive apricot colouring, about twelve inches in height, dark green leaves. Sunburst, bright yellow striped and feathered brilliant red pointed petals, about fourteen inches in height.


  • Orange Nassau, one of the best of recent introductions. Large, warm orange scarlet flowers, twelve inches in height.
  • Peach Blossom. Large full-double flowers, deep rose-pink, flushed white, twelve inches in height.
  • Schoonoord, the finest double early white. Large, full flowers, excellent for bedding and forcing, twelve inches in height.
  • Tea Rose, the same exquisite blending of pale yellow and soft rose as seen in many tea roses.
  • Aga Khan, warm deep orange; a really good colour and with quite distinct, large handsome flowers.
  • Duchess of Kent, a very large flower, full rich rose throughout.
  • John Dacosta, brilliant salmon pink, a most unusual shade.
  • Rheingold, large bright chrome yellow.


  • Allegro, large flowers of warm cerise red with white tipped petals.
  • Mount Tacoma, large white flowers on strong erect stems, closely resembling a double white Chinese peony.
  • Symphonia, a deep glowing maroon red.


These are so named because their prototypes have been found mostly in old cottage gardens in Great Britain and France. Distinct in habit they come in many beautiful colours, and are excellent for borders and for growing naturally amongst grass.

  • Beverley, a lovely orange flame shade, late flowering.
  • Carrara, a cup shaped flower of great size and substance, snowy white with white anthers. Conde Nast, light yellow flushed with rosy orange. A tall, shapely and strong grower.
  • Persian Beauty, outside carmine-rose edged with pale bronze, inside carmine-bronze shading to salmon towards a yellow base, anthers are a greenish yellow.
  • Rosy Wings, good lasting quality, with long five inch buds, a delightful shade of pink with a forget-me-not blue base. Blooms about three days earlier than the average cottage tulip but will remain in flower as long as the others.


  • Arabian Nights, a most unusual shade of chestnut red with a darker sheen, large, well formed, egg shaped flowers.
  • Breezand, intense geranium like with a jet black, gold edged base, a large flower on a strong straight stem.
  • Clara Butt, of perfect form, delicate soft rose pink with a salmon glow, centre white and blue.
  • Glacier, large oval pure white flowers with white base and white anthers. Very long lasting.
  • Nobel, deep geranium red with an attractive greenish black centre, edged with yellow.
  • Princess Elizabeth, a charming vivid rose pink flower, deepening with age and with a slight silvery flush at the margins, centre white.
  • Winston Churchill, light rose pink with a silvery flush at the margin, and long lasting.


  • Fantasy, rose pink in colour with apple green featherings.
  • Sunshine, bright golden yellow with green flecks.
  • Violet Green, an artistic blend of soft lilac and lavender violet.


  • Clara, deep pink and scarlet with white feathering.
  • Insulinde, a lovely combination of yellow, bronze, and various shades of mahogany and violet.

Sometimes it is found that the longer stemmed tulips either droop or take on unexpected curves. In case this happens it is useful to take the tulips out of the vase in the evening, snip off the ends of the stems, wrap all the stems together in firm newspaper so that only the flower-head emerges. This must not be too tight, but it must also be firm enough to give the necessary support. Tie round with string or pin together and then stand upright in a bucket or tall jug filled to the brim with water and leave all night in a cool place. In the morning the stems should have become much straighter and firmer and can once more take their place in the arrangement.

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