We've started this year's seed distribution scheme as usual.  Please send us your seeds as soon as they are ready.

Cornucopia - Tulips at Orchard House

Tulips at Orchard House
Pamela Clark

Up till last autumn the majority of my tulip planting had been in tubs and this continues to be mostly the case. Last November I branched out into bedding and permanent tulip planting, with mixed results, as you will read later.

One of the main reasons I plant most of my bulbs in tubs is to provide border infill when I feel a desperate need to see some taller colour in the mixed border. I have a couple of areas of mostly spring planting of hellebores, hyacinths and early daffodils but this often means bending down quite low to enjoy the detail of the individual bulbs and plants. The ‘infill’ pots contain mostly dwarf daffodil varieties: double flowered Narcissus 'Rip Van Winkle', N. 'Hawera', and N. 'Quail'. I found that Allium 'Purple Sensation' did reasonably well in pots but has fared much better since it was planted out in the border last autumn.

As a member of HPS I was keen to take advantage of the Peter Nyssen catalogue ordering system that our group organises and so I worked through the pages last July to select crocus, erythroniums, fritillaries, hyacinths, narcissi and tulips to improve the existing stock.

The plan with the tulips was to use them as spring bedding and last winter we planted a range of colours to provide dark and pale drifts.

The dark combination consisted of:

  • 'Black Parrot' – maven black/deep purple – parrot with feathered petals
  • 'Burgundy' – deep purplish violet – lily-flowered
  • 'White Triumphator' – pure white – lily flowered
  • 'Queen of Night' – deep velvety maroon – single late – height 60cm/24”
  • 'Black Hero' – Indian lake darker edge – double late

The pale group had:

  • 'Spring Green' - ivory white feathered/flamed green - viridiflora - height 50cm/20”
  • 'Greenland' – green-edged rose - viridiflora
  • 'Shirley' – mauve-edged ivory white – single late triumph – height 50cm/20”
  • 'Pink Diamond' – phlox pink with a softer edge – single late
  • 'Mount Tacoma' – peony-flowered white - late

The pale group of tulips worked well in their setting in the main mixed border as their flowers and heads showed up well against our old brick wall covered with Hydrangea petiolaris. The mix of flower head shapes was quite delightful. The best view was at a distance, from the side, as you got an impression of the colour drift of the mixed tulip planting.

The dark mix grew well but the location did not show the tulips to their best advantage. I planted them in a new border where the shrubs are young and there is still an amount of empty ground showing between the plants. The dark colours and the variety of tulip head shapes did not show up well from a distance, which was the whole purpose of the ‘drift’ and the viewer was only really aware of the 'White Triumphator' as bright points in an almost uniform colour group. Having lifted the bulbs I shall replant them in another part of the mixed border although I wonder if they might not be better planted as a mix in large tubs where the flowers stand proud of the surroundings and where the viewer can get up close to admire the beautiful flower heads?

Two tubs of T. 'Princess Irene' – a single early - were placed either side of the front door, its orange petals and purple ‘flames’ set off by the colour of the house brick. A pot of double late, raspberry striped T. 'Carnival de Nice' was planted to act as a later infill and found a home in front of Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride', the tub itself hidden by emerging hemerocallis leaves. This autumn I plan to plant these tulips next to an early-flowering double red peony. Orange T. 'Ballerina' wove its way through a small sheltered border just inside the gate, filling gaps in a piece of the garden that needs some new life injected into it.

The lily flowered T. 'Elegant Lady' was planted under Cotinus coggygria 'Notcutts' and Berberis 'Purpurea' in the shrubbery. This tulip is a lovely creamy yellow, edged with lavender pink complementing the purple of the two neighbouring shrubs and anticipating the leaf colour of the cotinus. The latter’s new leaves cover the dying tulip foliage in late spring/early summer.

My plans are to continue planting tulips in drifts through the garden – I like the haze of colour they produce when the border is viewed from the side and at an angle. Equally, the different varieties of tulips offer beautiful head shapes making them a rewarding ‘close-up’ study. I’m already deep in catalogues making my selections for the spring 2013 borders and pots

First published in the Norfolk & Suffolk Group Newsletter, Autumn 2012
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 31.
© Copyright for this article: Pamela Clark

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2013. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


© Hardy Plant Society 2020. Web design by CW.

This site uses cookies.
Please see our privacy policy for more information.

Close