Tulip Review 2016


As the last of the tulips start to go over in June, it’s a good time to reflect on the successes and failures of another year’s tulip planting while they are still fresh in one’s mind. There’s little chance I’ll remember what I liked, adored, disliked, or absolutely hated come the bulb catalogues’ arrival at the end of the summer, so a list and discussion of the various merits and disadvantages of each variety of tulip will be an extremely useful reference when the time comes to choose tulips for spring 2017.

Tulips are about colour! They are also about shape and height, but let’s face it, colour is the first reason we choose the tulips we like. Therefore it is important to pick varieties that will complement each other and the other plants in the garden they will be planted near. I picked my tulips for this year based mainly on colours I liked or wanted to experiment with, but did not pay much attention on the bloom time, and so it was sheer luck when a happy colour match (such as in my ‘Clearwater’ and ‘Golden Apeldoorn’ pot) occurred in tulips that were blooming at the same time. A colour scheme is beginning to emerge in both my front and back gardens, and so my tulip choices for 2017 will also reflect this – bright jewels and neons for the back, and delicate, antique colours for the front. I will also start to experiment further with interesting shapes such as the frilly-edged Parrot tulips and double ‘peony’-style tulips.

I have to admit that for the second year running, I planted my tulips in a tearing hurry with little thought as to how they would turn out. Thus there were a few mismatching, colour clashing disasters, white tulips blooming alongside red ‘Toronto’ being the prize-winning failure (it’s traditionally bad luck, and definitely bad aesthetics, for red and white flowers to bloom alongside each other).

Below, I have listed the tulips that grew in my garden in spring 2016. Some I have not been able to name and so have not talked about them, and one (‘Don Quichotte’) I sadly did not see blooming as we went on holiday during the vital fortnight, and so unfortunately I was unable to take any photographs of it nor form an opinion about it.

T. ‘Toronto’ (Greigii group) AGM

A multi-flowering, fire-engine red tulip with a yellow centre, which can develop up to five flowering stems per flower. ‘Toronto is a mid-spring tulip, and grows only 30cm tall. These have turned out to be reliable returners, and in their second year did indeed produce more than one flowering stem per bulb. This year, after deciding to tone down the colours in the front garden (which is, effectively, a woodland garden thanks to the street trees), I moved the ‘Torontos’ to the back garden.


T. ‘Holland Chic’

A late spring tulip (still looking super as I type this in early June), beginning as a compact white lily-shaped flower with streaks of pink that grow bolder as the flower declines. In the end, however, I actually preferred ‘Peach Blossom’ (see below) which was a similar hue of pink but a more endearing shape, to my eyes, than the lily-flowered ‘Holland Chic’.



T. ‘Peach Blossom’

A gorgeous double pink, peony-shaped, rather whimsical flower that did wonderfully in small pots in our front garden, blooming throughout April. Although I did not plant enough to cut, I would consider planting extra of these next year as they would look gorgeous in a vase. The picture below also shows ‘Tres Chic’ (see below).


T. ‘Golden Apeldoorn’

A golden yellow Darwin hybrid, enormous fat flowers on very tall stems that bloomed in late April/early May, collapsing into open cups in sunlight and at the end of blooming. I teamed it with a similarly large white tulip whose name was lost but which my mother has guessed as being ‘Clearwater’. It was a very successful combination and much commented on by those who saw it.




T. ‘Tres Chic’

An extremely elegant lily-flowered tulip, which you will adore if you like lily-flowered tulips, which sadly I’ve decided I don’t much. It bloomed in mid-April in pots with Narcissi ‘Cheerfulness’ and Hyacinthus ‘Blue Pearl’ and can be seen above in the picture with ‘Peach Blossom’.

T. ‘Menton’

An astonishingly tall, fat, coral-pink single late tulip (still fat and going strong as I type this in early June), which somehow stands up to a strong wind with barely a murmur, a perfect head turner. Sarah Raven claims that it returns year after year, although mine did not (ground probably too wet) and I am very glad I bought extra this year.




T. ‘Queen of the Night’

A very elegant, dark purple, single late tulip that is famous for its reliable return year after year. Although it was truly dramatic, I thought I did not show it off to its best advantage. Planted in a hurry, it has popped up in all sorts of unexpected places across the garden whereas it would have more impact in a solid group or teamed with a different, complementary tulip. Much as I liked ‘Queen of the Night’, I will not be buying more unless the right setting for it occurs to me.


T. Nightrider’

A dramatic mid- to late-flowering viridiflora single tulip with streaks of green through a purple petal. I did not see these in their true glory as they bloomed while we were in the USA. Fingers crossed they come back next year so I can have a proper look!



So now I’m already looking forward to those tulip catalogues and choosing a successful array of tulips for next spring! How did your tulip planting fare in 2016? Were you successful in planting beautiful colour combinations that complemented each other and their surroundings, or was it more of a haphazard mish-mash? How do you choose your combinations? Do you lift your tulips and attempt to replant the same bulbs in the autumn? What will you be doing differently for 2017 to ensure an optimal tulip display?



13 thoughts on “Tulip Review 2016

  1. In the past few years, my bulb supplier has sent catalogs in the spring when everyone has ‘bulb envy’ and the thrill of the season is still upon them. A brilliant strategy. As it happens, I was just looking over my catalog at lunch today. As much as I adore tulips, the voles eat mine and they are too costly to feed rodents! So I tend to look at the narcissi, which may not be highly colorful like tulips, but are a sound investment. However, I was considering getting some of the early tulips (like Greigii) to force inside. ‘Monsella’ and ‘Prince’ have also done well for me in the past.

    1. I agree, and was thinking exactly the same thing, wouldn’t it be better if the bulb catalogues were sent out now instead of in August by which time we’ve all forgotten about tulips and/or lost interest! As for voles, I wonder if chicken wire over the top of pots would work for you. I’ve seen that done in places. I don’t have voles, but I’ve rarely managed to raise a crocus as the mice eat them in an instant.

      1. Some folks fashion wire cages and plant the bulbs in them, but it seems like a lot of bother. But if I really wanted them, I’d do it. I’ve also heard of planting garlic in amongst them to repel rodents. Gardening often seems like a battle, doesn’t it? 😉

  2. Great review Joanna – especially as they are just a memory here! Unlike you, I adore the lily-flowered and so appreciated your pictures of Holland Chic (one for next year here). But it was Menton that really caught my eye (that and your good description!) Shame you missed Nightrider – I would have liked to have seen it too. I had quite a lot of tulip fire this year because of the rain – and so it was a little disappointing at Chatillon for tulips. I will not plant any in the Rose Walk for a few years to see how it settles down. I haven’t time to lift them every year, so they dwindle or increase, according to temperament (and this probably encourages the fire). I choose by the colours I have planned for a particularl border – the tulips kind of echo (theoretically at least!!!) the colour that should come later in the summer. Thanks for your post – it’s made me think about my tulips before it’s too late to order …

    1. I find that my taste in plants changes as rapidly as the weather, so I expect I will come to love the lily-flowered tulips in due course. If you google ‘Menton’ and find pictures of the town in South France (or if you already know the town), you will see exactly why this tulip is so named. A wonderful colour! Very sorry to hear about the tulip fire. Three years is about the safe time to wait, I believe? Though I wonder if you would be safe planting tulips in pots far away from the affected sites till then. I am not sure. But at least that would give you something lovely to look at in the tulip stakes till the ‘fire’ dies down!

      1. Yes – three years is ok – I can plant them elsewhere in the garden, so all is not lost. It’s just that I have had them to start the year in what I call my ‘Rose Walk’. The pinky pastel ones and Queen of the Night.

  3. Thanks Joanna, what a lovely review and such fabulous photos. It’s reminded me I meant to do one and haven’t, oops.

    I too love Menton, and I’m also not entirely convinced by the lily flowered ones. They can look great as single variety in a pot, but mixed with other non lily shaped tulips I feel is all wrong!

  4. Hi Joanna, beautiful photos for a really comprehensive review – I only grow Ballerina and a few species Tulips here, we are on a flood plain with sandy soil and the conditions for tulips aren’t great. My favourite of yours is Peach Blossom with Honesty, they work so well together.

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