Garden grace

Nothing tells you more that spring is well and truly here than the sight of a mass of tulips in flower. After several weeks of tantalising waiting, they've produced a fantastic display for all to enjoy

Tulips at Wisley 2015Here at RHS Garden Wisley we are celebrating the best of tulips, from the fresh and soft tones of the Tulipa 'Spring Green' AGM planted en masse in the Top Terrace bedding display, the subtle yellow highlights of Tulipa 'West Point' in the Country Garden to the riot of colour found in the Hilltop tulip trial. 

Tulips are such versatile spring bulbs and it’s not until you start to flick through the bulb catalogues planning what to choose for next year, that you appreciate the wide choice available. With so many to choose from I often end up with the sweetshop dilemma.

One of my star plants I took away from last year’s tulip trial was Tulipa linifolia (Batalinii Group) 'Red Hunter' AGM, a small species tulip that has the most vibrant red flowers. With 'Red Hunter' less is definitely more - this tulip looks its best naturalised in a border planted in small groups were the flowers become jewel-like, shining out from the bed.

How long will my tulips last?

Tulip trial at Wisley 2014We're often asked this question. Well, you can certainly enjoy several seasons from most tulips. You might find that you have smaller or fewer flowers after each year, but to ensure an excellent display we use new bulbs for our displays. What we often do at Wisley is to lift and store the tulips when they have finished and then replant in a spare bit of ground and use the tulips for cut flowers.

Now, deadheading isn't the first thing that one would associate with tulips, but I was amazed to learn that over in the home of the tulip, the Netherlands, tulips are deadheaded before even the first petal falls off. Why so? Well it is all in effort to reduce the spread of virus and diseases, as the falling petals can harm surrounding bulbs or future planting.

Tulips at RHS Garden WisleyThe visual feast for the eye that is the patchwork of tulips on trial at Hilltop at RHS Garden Wisley, is not to be missed. Featuring some of my other favourites such as; the open blooms of Tulipa 'Flaming Purissima', the stunning Tulipa 'Ballerina', the dark intensity of Tulipa 'Queen of Night' and the simple beauty of Tulipa 'China Pink' AGM (see photo). And throughout the Model Gardens enjoy the displays of the fabulous flowers in containers.


Useful links

RHS advice on growing tulips
See the results of the 2014 People’s Choice tulip


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