Tulips are truly a breath of fresh air — like taking in the fragrance of sheets off the clothesline. For early spring color and sheer garden abundance, nothing beats a bed of willowy tulips in full bloom. A undulating sea of tulips will certainly lift your spirits after any lingering grey of winter.
Generally, tulip varieties are divided into 15 different groups, which categorizes them by bloom time and overall shape and form. Very early blooming and low growing, the greigii and kaufmanniana varieties are a great addition to your garden. Species or “wild” tulips are smaller and more delicate in form—often the colors are quite vivid in hues of red or yellows. They tend to be easier to establish in the garden, multiplying and reblooming each spring. Some other reliable establishing varieties are: sylvestris, clusiana, humilis, saxatilis and dasystemon. These are perfect for planting near doorways or rock gardens as they are the first to bloom every year.
There are other varieties, too:
- Triumph tulips bloom in late April and come in a multitude of colors. They are also good for forcing in pots.
- The Darwin category contains some of the largest and sturdy growing varieties. They are truly impressive when grown en masse.
- Peony-flowering tulips are highly scented looking like luscious peonies or bowls of ice cream in the garden. Their strong, thick stems lend support to the massive flowers.
- Parrot tulips contain some of the most dramatic colors with flamboyant and frilled shapes— a magical addition to any garden.
- Viridiflora or green tulips have subdued green markings, which contrast with the muted tones of pinks and purples of the petals making the whole flower appear feathered and elegant.
- Lily Flowering have tall, elongated and flared stems that create a beautiful vertical line. They bloom later in the season, which makes them the perfect addition to the back of the border fully extending the long season of blooming tulips.
(Click on an image below to see a slideshow.)
Species Tulip Clusiana tubergen, only 8″ high
‘Gavata’ Triumph division tulips, burnt maroon centers encased in swirling yellow bands makes this a real standout in the garden
Tulip ‘Greenstar’, a dramatic viridiflora tulip, lime green and pure white make a beautiful contrast
Lily-flowering tulip ‘Ballerina’, Majestic presence in peach and rose tones, long lasting in bloom
Deep purple Tulip ‘Negrita in a swirl of pale yellow daffodils
Peony flowering tulip ‘Charming Beauty’, late blooming peach-apricot color
Tulip ‘Pittsburgh’, vivid plum-colored flowers on an 18″ tall strong stem
Species tulip ‘Tarda’, only 6″ high, this tulip will reliably come back every year–perfect complement to myrtle
Mass planting tulips in drifts creates an alluring and voluptuous feeling to the spring garden. Bold plantings are sure to inspire and lift spirits, and provide an abundance of color before spring perennials even start to bloom.
Tulips can be incorporated into shrub and evergreen borders to fill in gaps and provide wonderful color in the early spring. The later blooming shrubs will camouflage the waning foliage of the bulbs.
By staging different varieties of tulips in graduated layers the garden will unfurl in a succession of blooms providing wonderful color and fragrance for many weeks. Enjoy!