Tulips are like exotic birds. They come in different shapes, heights, colours and flowering times. You have early single and doubles and late singles and doubles. The early flowering ones open in cooler weather, right when winter is just disappearing, and tend to last longer. Their flowers have a distinct cup shape consisting of six petals. The single late tulip is one of the last to bloom, and is also the tallest variety averaging heights of 18 to 30 inches. Also known as the May flowering tulip, these tulips come in the widest variety of colours. Doubles are often known as ‘Peony’ tulips and have heavy heads so need a sheltered position and may require staking.
‘Apricot Beauty’ is an early flowering single and although I found it to be rather a wishy-washy colour to begin with, the more mature the flower the deeper the colour, silvery salmon pink on the outside and spectacularly apricot and yellow on the inside. This started flowering in March and finished in mid-April.
Another early one to flower is ‘Cairo’, with a rich orange colour which lights up in the sun. This is a Triumph style tulip and long lasting and is scented so a bonus. It is very similar to ‘Brown Sugar‘ also scented and in the same orange, copper, red colours.
The next to flower in my collection this year was ‘Ronaldo‘ a delicious blackcurrant coloured Triumph which starts off a deep carmine red but darkens with age. This flowers for absolutely ages and looks gorgeous with the oranges and the pinks.
Cairo was soon followed by ‘Apricot Foxx‘ a golden orange with hints of pink. This is a Triumph, a single mid-season flower which doesn’t grow too tall. Handy in the wind.
A late flowering double is ‘La Belle Epoque‘ which actually opened in early April and has been flowering for a couple of weeks now. An unusual colouring of coffee, pink and apricot this is probably not the best tulip for my windy spot, but it is a wonderful flower.
Lily-flowered tulips are late spring bloomers. Their star-shaped flowers have long pointed petals that arch outwards. I am a big fan of this shape of tulip, finding it very elegant. Among those I have grown are ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Purple Dream‘. Ballerina (below) is very good at repeat flowering and is also scented. ‘Sarah Raven‘ is a delightful deep red one (seen centre of the collage)
Purple Dream has rich, purple petals which open as the flowers age, revealing a glowing white eye (as seen on the left).
There are many other types including the Botanical or Perennial species of tulip, which are smaller and more delicate than modern hybrids, but are normally very hardy and long lived. ‘Whittallii’ is among these, a lovely deep coppery orange.
I have grown Kaufmanniana Hybrids which are supposed to come back every year, but mine haven’t been too successful. Last year the leaves appeared but no flowers and the leaves were eaten by slugs I think. I also grew Parrots, a cultivar with unusual fringed, curled and twisted petals. Mainly late-flowering. I didn’t like them and the heads are too large and heavy for a windy garden.
Next year I will try some more of the Viridiflora which are distinguished by having green streaks or markings on their petals and are normally late flowerers. Given the choice of tulips I am sure there is one that must appeal to you.