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tulips4I have tulips dancing before my eyes.

I must have planted a thousand in the last few weeks. Not in my own garden, unfortunately: though I have bought in some more species tulips (my particular passion) and some ‘Abu Hassan’, ‘White Triumphator’ and ‘Ballerina’ to bulk out the main borders, my garden is at the bottom of the pecking order so these will have to wait till I can tear myself away from all the other tulip planting I have to do.

All the gardens I look after have owners who adore tulips, so I am planting them en masse wherever we can fit them in.


The chicken garden has huge handsome terracotta pots packed with the things out the front and a cutting garden full of ‘Graceland’, ‘Apricot Beauty’, ‘Belle Epoque’ and ‘Sapporo’; yet still they come. I am in the middle of planting a rainbow of tulip colour through the big rose garden border at the moment: it will look fabulous.

In the Dorset garden I look after there are a couple of borders by the house which I planted up with a mix of tulips as an experiment last year.


I had, until I did this, favoured the Christopher Lloyd school of planting tulips: great blocks and swathes of the same variety, fifty at a time about 10cm apart for maximum impact. Visit Great Dixter any time in May to see exactly the effect I’m talking about: it looks stunning.

I’ve done this in my own garden for ages and it does mean you get the full impact of each type of tulip to the max. The only problem is that you get one block of early tulips coming up in late April, then a bit of a green flower-less gap before the next block flowers in early May. Or they overlap and you have a slightly jangly contrast before the next block takes over.

Of course this is probably my own cack-handedness in applying the Christo theory and I’m sure Fergus Garrett would get it right.

But just for fun, last year I tried a combination of tulips of different flowering times in the same place.


All were a similar colour palette, but I had groups of mixed early- mid season and late-flowering types to provide a succession of colour from April to June.

Amazingly, that’s exactly what happened. They flowered for ages and were joyous and lovely and full of delight: they reminded me of a packet of Jelly Tots. Which also made me realise just how pretty Jelly Tots are.

We loved them so much we took lots of photos (including those above) and I’ve replanted them almost exactly the same this year (with a couple of necessary close substitutes as the original varieties weren’t available). I’m now seeing if I can come up with similarly lovely combinations to use in my own garden.

I thought I’d share the mix with you: here’s what I planted. It’s not all that complicated: just pairs of early, mid-season and late varieties, all toned in so that when they overlap they look good together. Simples.

Apricot Beauty (Single Early)
Purple Prince (Single Early)
Negrita (Triumph – mid-season)
Spring Green (Viridiflora – mid-season)
Pink Diamond (Single Late)