Think of the tulip and Dutch associations immediately follow – clogs and girls with sweet curly pigtails, however before The Netherlands came Turkey, where as far back as the 1500s the flowers were prized as symbols of wealth, with Sultans often wearing the blooms in their turbans, no clogs in sight. This is thought to have given rise to the name ‘tulip’ after the Turkish name for turban: tulipan.
Tulip mania is often spoken of – a time when bulbs obtained prices equal to property and everyone wanted to put a tulip in their painting or ceramic creation. Forget Prada or Gucci, there was another five letter word on peoples’ lips! The boom was around 1636, but within a year, boom turned to bust and prices fell. However, we’ve never really lost our love for this bulbous beauty. Just take Keukenhof Gardens and its thousands of bulbs attracting viewers every year – including a teenage me in the 1990s! Or Dunsborough Park in Surrey which I became familiar with while working on The Great British Garden Revival for the BBC in 2014: what a stunning display of both the formal setting and the wild meadow effect.
The brightest bulb on the block, it really has no rival as far as spring colour goes and with 15 different groups, forms as well as colour are most varied from doubles and parrots to the more common singles. Don’t worry if you’ve not got round to planting yet, your bulbs are quite happy to wait until it gets colder to go in the ground, as planting in November and December reduces the chance of picking up tulip fire blight.
Tulipa viridiflora ‘Greenland’ has been a popular one for many years, I just love green colourations in a blossom and added to pink, this one really stands out. For a shorter stunner, go for the old favourite ‘Red Riding Hood’ – blood red flowers and the most interesting of variegated leaves – a nursery rhyme necessity for your spring pots.
Finally for something with a difference, and a perfect Easter Holiday addition – how about ‘Ice Cream’ – I tried this one last year and can honestly say it’s unlike any other tulip you’re likely to grow! A green cone, displaying a base of strawberry pink topped up with a vast amount of whipped vanilla – buy 2 packs and it’s even cheaper per bulb than a 99!
Written by: Camilla Bassett-Smith