Your tulips were made for kissin'...

by James Alexander-Sinclair

November is the month to plant tulips. There are few things more wonderful in this world than to cradle a tulip bulb in your hand.

TulipsNovember is the month to plant tulips. There are few things more wonderful in this world than to cradle a tulip bulb in your hand; the rustling wispy-crispy skin and the smooth, slightly clammy flesh. Supremely organised and efficient gardeners will already have bought their bulbs. I may be too late to help this year but these are my top tulips. To be perfectly accurate these are some of my top tulips as there are too many to fit in here.

  • Tulipa 'White Triumphator' - the shape and colour of angels

  • T. 'Ballerina' - soaring orange

  • T. 'Negrita' - beetroot coloured

  • T. 'Queen of the Night' - dark and truly gorgeous

  • T. 'Anthraceit' - flowers like the backsides of turkeys (but prettier)

  • T. tarda - early and peppery scented

    I could go on for ever but it would cause people to doze off: instead I will share three of my tulip planting rules (there are more but I am, as ever, aware of the dozing off problem).

    Firstly - a yellow tulip is a waste of space. Not because they are not lovely ('West Point') but because by the time May comes along I am sick to the back teeth of ruddy yellow. We have been flooded by daffodils in every shape - short, tall, fat, thin etc - but every single one is yellow (yes, I know that some are creamy white but they are still tainted by the yellow of their friends and relations). They are even worse if planted in ruler-straight rows interspersed with red ones. Looks too much like a floral representation of the Spanish Flag. Tulips should be different: they should announce a new beginning. To be a yellow tulip is like being the second girl to leap topless from the cake: fine but no longer a novelty.

    Secondly - ten tulips in a container look smashing: ten tulips in a border look pathetic.

    Thirdly - be wary of the tartier elements: an excess of predatory parrots and flouncing doubles could easily end in tears.

    Now all we have to do is wait...

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    Gardeners' World Web User 18/11/2007 at 10:20

    Personally love the descriptions..far more fun than saying a deep purple tulip with splayed out petals.

    Also agree with the comment on daffs the only place I really love them is in the valleys of wales nestling amongst the dry stone walls and drifting through the fields with little lambs running around..breathtaking. But in garden borders I find them rather uninspiring.

    Gardeners' World Web User 18/11/2007 at 21:15

    I disagree with Kathleenc - too much garden writing is earnest, but deadly dull. Keep up the excellent work, James. Your pieces are a delight.

    Gardeners' World Web User 19/11/2007 at 17:40

    Kathleen, I bought some Tulip Anthraceit only a week or so ago from Jacques Amand in Stanmore. Try (I give you this lead even though you don't like my descriptions!)

    Gardeners' World Web User 22/11/2007 at 15:09

    Thank you James. I'm glad you don't bear grudges! I've had a look at Jaques Amand website, but Tulip Anthraceit is not listed in the UK or US store. I'll try again next year.

    Gardeners' World Web User 23/11/2007 at 09:11

    Tulips are brilliant, tulip heaven is the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland. Obviously I bought some while there but they didn't grow, was the pot too shallow at 8 inches? Strangely they seem to be putting up shoots this year.

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