The anti-pink



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Regardless of whatever Pantone has decided, I declare orange to be the color of 2013.  It needs to be, because I somehow ordered 500 orange/orange-red tulips.  Maybe more—hard to say how some of the multi-colored species types will turn out.

Let’s see—we have Prinses Irene, Orange Princess, Christmas Orange, vvedenskyi Tangerine Beauty, and the massage-oil-named (but still orange) Sensual Touch. And I’m pretty sure the Temples Favorite I got from Colorblends is the same as the Temple of Beauty from Van Engelens, which was kind of orangey in certain lights.

I never meant to buy that many orange tulips, but somehow I did. This is how I’m justifying it. When I started gardening, it was all about subtlety.  The first tulips I ordered were a delicate pink to go with my white daffodils, pink dianthus, and blue iris. I had a lot of pastels back then.

But I’ve moved away from pink since then (except for roses I’ve had for a long time), instead trying for high contrast drama between yellow, oranges, whites, and purples. And the past few years have given me even more reason to dislike pink, which—at this time of year—has been massively co-opted by a fusion of marketing and often-dubious fundraising around cancer charities.

But mainly, the reason I’ve switched to stronger tulip colors is the same reason I try to plant tulips in groups of 50. The go-big-or-go-home rule can also work with color. After 3 or 4 months of solid gray, with occasional spots of white, there really should be an explosion of color. And it seems to work better if there are just 1 or 2 strong colors.

Which brings us to orange. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Good God, Elizabeth – where do you put 500 tulips (of any color) in your small city lot??? I’m getting to the point where I’m hard pressed to find room for 5 – it seems as though no matter where I dig, I dig up some previously planted ones!

  2. The contrast between my hot orange poppies and dk blue bearded iris for a few weeks in spring is why I cannot bring myself to shovel prune them no matter how raggedy the iris look at high summer and the bare spots left by the poppies.

  3. Susan,

    I put most of my hybrid tulips in containers. It is a great solution for any gardener, regardless of lot size. (I have a piece about it in the current issue of Fine Gardening–shameless self-promotion, I know, but I really think more people would try it.)

  4. I love Tulips in the early Spring here in Sweden. They are always the first things to show up, sometimes even through the snow. I love those warm colours you are showing here with the combination of deep yellows and burnt orange.

    Maybe we can name them the *Global Warming 2013 Tulip” ?


  5. Elizabeth, I really appreciate your suggestion to grow tulips in pots and I am acting on it. I can keep the pots in our dirt basement, if I can get some screening to keep the mice out. THis is a big mouse/rodent year in our neighborhood, but I have hopes.

  6. I also had a heavily pastel palette in the spring, but have decided that you need LOUD after that winter gray. No one sees the white, but the orange/red/fushia, they can see that from the road. Subtle doesn’t cut it in spring any more!

  7. I took your advice last year and planted a pot of tulips. It was a great success and I’m going to do it again. Except maybe I need to do more pots this year…..

  8. Another nice thing about orange tulips is that many of them are fragrant, especially the big ones.
    A nice smaller one is lily-flowered Ballerina. I forget whether it has fragrance.

  9. What are you doing to me???

    I read this and the first thing I do is run to look at Ven Engelen. 100 Princess Irene for $37.25.

    I live in an apartment, fer crying out loud. Someone take my credit card. Please!

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