I think it’s safe to say that Elizabeth Licata and I are tulip-obsessed. It probably has something to do with climate. We suffer through five months of winter in our respective corners of New York State, and then, suddenly, in late April, the tulips appear and there is color! artifice! life! in the world.
My feeling about tulips is the more unnatural, the better. The bigger, the weirder, the showier, the more ephemeral and expensive, the happier I get.
Egged on by my degeneracy, Elizabeth’s already bad bulb habit seems to be getting worse. She planted one of my favorite doubles this year, Orange Princess. That’s right. It’s orange and it’s double, and I am not apologizing for it.
But it’s not as if the influence isn’t working the other way, too. I’ve heard Elizabeth express her love for species tulips and paid attention. My only previous experience of species tulips is tulipa tarda, below.
It’s nice enough, but not any more exciting than a crocus. In fact, considerably less exciting than my crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’ a screaming purple aggressive enough to rend winter in two.
But last fall, inspired by Elizabeth, I planted two other taller species tulips. Tulipa sylvestris is below. I love the way the outer petals bend back while the inner stay firmly shut.
I also planted an ORANGE species, tulipa whittallii, which was stunning yesterday, but is refusing to open today in a slight chill.
These tulips are unusual, graceful, striking, and natural all at the same time. Not that I’m giving up my Orange Princesses, but there are places where a little bit of subtlety works, too. Now, get Brent & Becky’s Bulbs on the line! I need more for next year.