By Louise Curley
Nothing can beat tulips for creating a riot of spring colour. Their sheer diversity offers gardeners a painter’s palette of colour, whether it’s the palest pastels or the richest jewel-like hues. Then there’s the type of flower, from the simple beauty of single goblet-shaped blooms to flamboyant parrot varieties, softly-romantic peony-like doubles or elegant lily-flowered tulips. With so many options tulips are perfect for creating a whole host of different styles in your garden borders and containers.
To create the biggest impact plant tulips in groups rather than dotting them about here and there, and in any one area focus on a limited palette of three or four colours which work well together to give your planting scheme coherence. If you’re daunted by the sheer choice then choose failsafe colour combinations such as the darkest of purples with pure whites or clashing orange tones. If you fancy something more subtle, go for viridifloras with their petals flashed with green mixed with ivories and whites.
Tulips also make perfect partners for other spring performers such as other bulbs, the flowers of biennials, spring-blooming perennials and newly-emerging foliage. Or, use the wafty foliage of grasses and dependable evergreens alongside tulips. The key is to choose partner plants that will perform at the same time, then sit back and enjoy a truly exuberant April garden.
Guide to shapes
Single – Can flower early or late season. Distinctive traditional cupped shape with six overlapping curving petals, strong stems and many colour choices. H20-50cm (8-20in) S10cm (4in)
Double – Can flower early or late season. More than six petals arranged in two or more whorls. Shorter stems than singles and fewer colour choices, but flowers can open to 10cm (4in). H20-40cm (8-16in)
Lily – Long petals are reflexed (bend backwards) to create elegant urn shape. Slender stem. Late season, flowering in May. H23-80cm (9-32in)
Peony – Large, double tulips flowering in late April or May. Petals are ruffled and stems usually robust. H45-60cm (17-24in) S10cm (4in)
Parrot – Petals are ruffled, twisted and sometimes crimped or waved. Flowers mid season April and May in various colours. H30-70cm (12-28in) S10cm (4in)
Fringed – Frayed petals for attractive, ‘ripped fabric’ effect. Flowers late season in May; long-lasting blooms on strong stems. H20-75cm (8-30in)
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