James Bond’s Choice of Tulips

It’s time to order spring bulbs again.

My problem is that I love them all and my wish list can get out of control. Last year, when confronted with catalogues I put a big red star by so many names I would have needed another mortgage and an assistant gardener to use them all. How to choose bulbs for my pots?

I try to make each area of the yard different each year. Why? Because I can, of course. The spring before last was all burnt oranges at the back door, so for this year I decided (last August) that I wanted a classy cocktail of pink, purple and white, spiced with a few dashes of yellow and blue, to look at from the kitchen window. I always start plans with the tulips, because those are the big WOW bursts of colour, the anticipation of which makes winter worthwhile, and I like to try a few new ones each year. The trouble was there are so many tulips in this colour range, how on earth would I choose?

I do like a well-named plant, and as I looked through the catalogues again and again it gradually dawned on me that a lot of the tulip names were suitable for a saucy night of drinking, dancing, gambling and flirtation. Nights like that are a thing of the far-distant past for me, well, I never was a gambler. Or a dancer. Anyway, I thought I could conjure an unlikely night out with James Bond via my pot displays.

These are the tulip varieties that I chose for my louche night out with a fictional playboy: Black Jack, Blushing Girl, Burgundy Lace, Coquette, Creme Lizard (thinking of lounge lizards, stay with me), Cuban Night, Fats Domino, Global Desire, Honky Tonk, Odalisque, Jazz, Night Club, Pink Diamond, Pretty Love, Tres Chic, Victoria’s Secret, Violet Beauty.

Being limited by my chosen theme made it easier to choose, and I still managed to find a wide range of flowering times – between them the tulips provided colour from the beginning of April to early June. I stirred them with grey foliage and shook in a few splashes of purple foliage, some violas and primulas, and some Narcissus and earlier flowering bulbs. I bought the vast majority of my bulbs from Peter Nyssen and was very pleased with their quality and reliability.

Here’s how the tulips turned out:

Black Jack was glossy, gorgeous, upstanding and long-lasting. The grass it is with is Poa labillardieri, which has looked good all year.

Tulipa 'Black Jack'

Tulipa ‘Black Jack’

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‘Blushing Girl’ lived up to its name beautifully, starting off a demure creamy white with a flash of greenish yellow, but becoming a clearer white with delicate pink edges as it opened. This tulip lasted well too, and was one of the last still showing colour at the end of May.

Tulipa 'Blushing Girl'

Tulipa ‘Blushing Girl’

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‘Burgundy Lace’ started off really true to name, with a dark fringe on the new flowers, but as it aged it got a little more shocking (don’t we all).

Tulipa 'Burgundy Lace'

Tulipa ‘Burgundy Lace’

Tulipa 'Burgundy Lace'

Tulipa ‘Burgundy Lace’

 

‘Coquette’ was charming enough in her own way, but outshone by ‘Blushing Girl’, who sneaked up behind her. I carelessly placed them too close together and in the end I couldn’t be bothered to separate them.

Tulipa 'Coquette' is the white tulip on the right

Tulipa ‘Coquette’ is the white tulip centre right

 

I have grown ‘Creme Lizard’ before and knew it to be multi-talented. I like the way its flowers evolve.

Tulipa 'Creme Lizard' emerging

Tulipa ‘Creme Lizard’ emerging

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‘Creme Lizard’ in its prime

 

‘Cuban Night’ was one of my favourites. I have a weakness for dark flowers and for fringed tulips, so I guessed this would be a winner.

Tulipa 'Cuban Night'

Tulipa ‘Cuban Night’

‘Fats Domino’, as a bright, solid yellow was banished to other side of the door, but had to be included for the sake of his namesake. I made the schoolgirl error of assuming that Narcissus ‘Quail’ was short and planting it in front of him.

Tulipa 'Fats Domino', Narcissus 'Quail'

Tulipa ‘Fats Domino’, Narcissus ‘Quail’

 

‘Global Desire’, according to my notes, was a bit scruffy at first, but matured nicely. It didn’t blow me away.

Tulipa 'Global Desire'

Tulipa ‘Global Desire’

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Tulipa ‘Global Desire’ ageing gracefully

 

Tulipa ‘Honky Tonk’ is a little batalinii tulip, which I have grown many times before and love for its graceful habit and soft colour, with a slight warm blush on the outside of the tepals. I was glad it fitted with my theme. The smaller “species” tulips are great for shallower pots at the front of the display.

Tulipa 'Honky Tonk'

Tulipa ‘Honky Tonk’, centre front

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Tulipa ‘Honky Tonk’

 

Tulipa humilis ‘Odalisque’ is an even smaller tulip, with a bright, punchy colour that’s very welcome in early April.

Tulipa humilis 'Odalisque'

Tulipa humilis ‘Odalisque’

 

‘Jazz’ flowered a little later than billed (mid May) but it was in a rather shady position; its starry flowers gave a clean blast of pink.

Tulipa 'Jazz'

Tulipa ‘Jazz’

 

‘Night Club’ is a multi-headed tulip. This kind of tulip always makes me feel like I’m getting good value for money! On reflection, though I liked its clear, bright pink I put it a bit too close to ‘Jazz’ and should have moved it because the colours were too similar, but not similar enough, if you see what I mean. I loved the dark purple pollen and blue triangle in the centre of these flowers.

Tulipa 'Night Club'

Tulipa ‘Night Club’

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Tulipa ‘Night Club’ in front of ‘Jazz’ and ‘Blushing Girl’

 

‘Pink Diamond’ is one of the latest tulips, tall, graceful and a pretty, soft pink. I planted this one with the pale blue Camassia ‘Blue Heaven’ and felt very smug about it even though the pot was at the back of the display, near the wall, and should have had a bit more water for the Camassia to be happy.

Tulipa 'Pink Diamond' is at the rear right of this picture

Tulipa ‘Pink Diamond’ is at the rear right of this picture

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Tulipa ‘Pink Diamond’ and Camassia ‘Blue Heaven’

 

‘Pretty Love’ started out a more salmony colour than I would have liked, and didn’t look good with purples,  it settled down a bit but was still too high vis for my tastes.

Tulipa 'Pretty Love'

Tulipa ‘Pretty Love’

‘Tres Chic’ (I hate typing this without the accent but I can NOT find how to do it on my keyboard!) lived up to its name very well indeed, but I used it outside the kitchen window on the other side of the door, to lighten the shadiest area. What an elegant tulip. It makes me think of crisp, white linen.

Tulipa 'Tres Chic' is the white, lily-flowered tulip

Tulipa ‘Tres Chic’

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‘Victoria’s Secret’ was a rich purple, rather curly tulip. I’m not sure why, but a few of its flower stems rotted at the base. I’ll have to try it again and see if I can work out what went wrong. The remaining flowers were very glamorous, as you would expect, and aged rather magnificently, which you would not.

Tulipa 'Victoria's Secret', young and perky

Tulipa ‘Victoria’s Secret’, young and perky

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Old and still glamorous.

‘Violet Beauty’ was a soft colour, it was tall, with a slight tendency to lean when in deep shade (which is fair enough if you ask me). I’ll definitely be buying this one again.

Tulipa 'Violet Beauty'

Tulipa ‘Violet Beauty’ talking to neighbouring violas

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Tulipa ‘Violet Beauty’, tall and upright in a sunnier position

So there you have it. There was more, of course, but I think that’s enough for now. I’ll leave you with a few more general views:

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15 thoughts on “James Bond’s Choice of Tulips

  1. gorgeous! I love all your pots. Such a lot of inspiration here. I think we. Could all do with a bit of Tres Chic, jazz and nightclub! I’ll try not to blush!

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  2. Some wonderful tulips there. Black Jack and Cuban Night my favourites I think. But then there is Honky Tonk. And Creme Lizard. *watches bulb list expand*

    Wonderful photos as ever Harriet.

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    • Thanks, I save the tulip bulbs that are quite big but I compost the ones which have split into tiny bulbs, or which I don’t like. The saved ones usually get planted in the garden, where it doesn’t matter if they flower or not next year. Often I forget about them, of course and some rodent or other gets them. But don’t tell anyone I said that. Sometimes a pot gets left as it is if the plants are looking ok in the summer, and occasionally the tulips flower again, but they don’t usually in pots. Narcissi & crocuses are usually fine in the same pot for at least a couple of years, so pots which just have those often get left as they are.

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  3. Thanks for a delightful post…What a profusion of petaled perfection : ) Love the diversity of your Tulips and those pots are exquisite. Always great to discover some new ones to try, and helpful to hear your observations on bloom times/length/quality, etc….Great collection of photos…as usual. Must admit though, get exhausted just imagining the work involved with planting and especially watering! Of course not an issue for the plant smitten…it takes one to know one ; )

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