Why Tulips turn me on

Before I begin, how long have you got? I ask, because I have a lot. I’m a huge fan of these elegant, exotic beauties – especially as cut flowers, because they have attitude. Unlike, say, carnations or chrysanthemums, which stay put precisely as you plonk them in a vase, tulips stretch and swoon, or bend backwards then raise their heads to look up. In a word, they pose! Try this flower-arranger’s trick: when they’ve assumed a position you like, mix a drop of washing-up liquid into their water. The bubbles will enter the hollow stems and ‘freeze’ the pose for you.

In the garden, tulips are more mannered and restrained, but their bright, bold, beautiful impact is unmissable, so they play a big part in my spring display. I’ve just finished selecting this year’s bulbs, for next spring’s enjoyment. Two old favourites I can’t be without – candy-pink Angelique and white, peony-flowered Mount Tacoma – go in pots on the patio. A single Mount Tacoma in a bud vase looks gorgeous, too. Another I always buy is Queen of the Night – her late-flowering, near-black blooms look stunning among the bluebells. And there’s always a ready-made mix of early-flowering pinks and purples to scatter at random because – for all my planting plans, I don’t like the ‘municipal flowerbed look’.

What I do like is colour combinations that work magic so, to plant beneath the magnolia, which bears purple-based white flowers, I’ve chosen plain Purple Flag, and a plain white, plus a white feathered with purple – the last two are lily-flowered. There’s something very oriental about these graceful tulips, and two or three look wonderful in a vase with a branch of bamboo.

The hesitant flirtatiousness of Viridiflora tulips, with their part-green petals is irresistible: this year’s choice is a white-and-green one called Spring Green. I also have to have a couple of flamboyant showgirls – better known as Parrot tulips – with their feathery, flamenco-dancer ruffles: Blue Parrot again, and fabulously plump, pink-and-green Fantasy.

For someone who’s not keen on planting, this 200+ haul sounds a lot – but bulbs are a doddle. Make a hole, drop a bulb in, fill the hole and forget it; months later, a fabulous flower appears. Gardening doesn’t get any easier! And with this many tulips coming up, I can cut plenty to enjoy indoors as well as out. Isn’t that what having a garden is all about?

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs www.perfectlyworded.co.uk, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and www.HotelsThatWereNot.com, a website showcasing properties with a past.
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