May 27, 2011

The Forms and Colors of Tulips

Each fall I order a variety of tulips to plant in a row in the vegetable garden, for cutting the following spring. To my eye tulips are nice in the garden, but are elegant and beautiful when brought indoors and arranged in a vase, their form enhanced by the relationship with container and surrounding space. The tulip above is Menton, a very tall late blooming flower in shifting hues of pink and apricot. I love it when it is new, its form gently closed, a finely clothed reticent maiden.

Apricot Beauty is an early bloomer, the first tulip of spring, with a light scent. It is a much less formal flower than Menton, so here it is in a comfortable country setting.

Tulips are not always prim and proper. The parrot tulips have wavy irregular edges and open into extravagant shapes. This is Black Parrot, not actually black but a deep dark burgundy red. It is a stunning flower and exciting to watch it change shape from day to day.

These blowsy peony look-alikes are double tulips, a special treat for a peony lover like me. I don't know this variety because it was a mislabeled package; I was supposed to get my favorite Angelique, which is a very pale pink. But sometimes it's also nice to be surprised with something new.

For instance, the orange lily flowered tulips here, Ballerina, came by mistake a couple of years ago, but I loved their form and color so much that I now order them every year. The dark red tulip I've paired them with is Jan Reus.

And finally, a Rembrandt-type Flaming tulip, which is a reminder of the 17th century Dutch Tulip mania, when the most sought after tulip bulbs sold for huge sums. A virus was found to be the cause of the multi-colored flamed tulips, but breeders have now found a way to replicate their colors. They are in a pitcher on my desk, in front of a photogravure by Karl Blossfeldt, interrupted by the reflection of green nature beyond the window.


  1. These are spectacular, Altoon. Just beautiful.

  2. Lovely photos. The parrots are my favorite. Your dark ones are beautiful.

  3. thanks ski and Nancy.
    Nancy, last year I grew a red parrot tulip and thought I'd try the dark one this year. I love it.

  4. i love them! they are so beautiful rich and elegant. and so much variety. you are lucky to have them. here they have very hard time. it is not cold enough for Tulips. sometime if i am lucky i have one. i recomended you a very good book by Michael Pollan call: "The Botany of Desire" where, beside other very interesting things he describe also the history of beauty through the history of the Tulip. i add some link. enjoy.

  5. these are so gorgeous...the deer must have something else they like to eat much better where you live. When I was growing up it seemed like the only way my mother's tulip garden would produce was if I slept in it at night. It was as if the deer spread the word, "Rosie's Tulips - delicious! Stop by after midnight and have some!"

  6. Love this, and the first photo is absolutely stunning. The moles, voles, squirrels ect. eat most of my tulip bulbs, but when I see this I am tempted to try again.

  7. Hadass, I've read that Pollan book and it's wonderful, as was an early one "Second Nature" and his food books.
    Deb and Liz, I grow these inside the electric fence around the vegetable garden; the moles aren't as active there either. I do have a few tulips coming up in flower borders, but I guess the deer are staying away after discovering the nasty electricity around the vegetables.

  8. What a beautiful assortment. I have Black Parrot but they are fading out. They must look great with that unknown double. You are growing them in the ideal way — for cutting. I think it is hard to make them look good in the garden but they always look stunning in a vase — and I love the way they keep growing.