A comment from MaryContrary on Michele’s post prompted me to continue what I am sure to many of you are my obsessive and tiresome ravings about species tulips. This time, however, I return to the subject with renewed purpose. It’s been a horrible “spring” for bulbs and I’ve noticed that divisions such as single early, single late, and Triumph have meant little among the hybrids; everything pretty much came up at the same time: now. In fact the single earlys are a bit behind the lates. This can be annoying when you’re trying to have some measure of control over the timing of your bulb displays.
With species, though, I’ve noticed that they come up unfailingly at their advertised times. And because they are generally lower to the ground, they’re less likely to get beat up by April blizzards; their toughness belies their dainty appearance. Some, like turkistanica, have a charming habit of closing and opening with the sun. Also, you don’t need a ton of them; they can be scattered about ground cover and perennials (probably not grass; you’d need to mow too soon). Finally, their foliage is practically invisible; so much more manageable that the yellowing remains of big daffodils and hybrid tulips. I don’t like to see that much plant decay in the spring.
In April, I had the turkistanica, what I think is kolpakowskiana (top), and the red batalini. Now I have the striped clusianas (Jane and Cynthia, Jane shown above), and I expect acuminata in a week or so. As I’ve discussed before, it’s all about expectation, and these plants provide four to five weeks of varying flower forms and colors. Some are oval-shaped, some star-shaped, and some, like acuminata, are just crazy.
There has been only one disappointment: alba coerulea oculata, a very early (and pricey) variety with an amazing steel blue center, did not return. But overall, I’d say these plants demonstrate an ability to thrive and spread equal to that of many common perennials. I am sure I have some fellow species fans out there.