It’s the last chance to buy and plant tulips in Sydney this week, so if you’ve been tardy so far, rush out to the local nursery this afternoon to grab what’s left. Need convincing? Have a look at some of the inspirational ideas Linda Ross picked up last month on a Ross Garden Tour through England.
“Tulips are one-hit wonders in a warm climate but that doesn’t dampen our enthusiasm one bit. The clarity of their colour and the simplicity of their form makes us come over all lustful, whether we have large expanses of garden to play with, or the tiniest balcony corner.
The easiest way to use tulips is in pots. Select a large pot and the best potting mix you can afford. Plant bulbs twice as deep as they are wide. Feed with a liquid bulb food at planting time, and again as the flower buds form. Cram them in for a sensational display like this one in the South Cottage Garden in Vita Sackville-West’s masterpiece, Sissinghurst. Harmonized in a verdigris copper tub, they were the sensational centrepiece for this hot-coloured garden. Notice how close they are planted! These must be only 5cm apart.
We saw the same tulip planted through an existing garden and painting glowing lines into the Lily Pond Garden in Hidcote Manor.
If strong colour is not your thing how about the charming coolness of these ivory tulips against a duck egg blue wall, also seen and much admired at Hidcote Manor.
Tulips with friends
You can also mix the bulbs with a complementary annual or other plant. Master colourist Marilyn Abbott pairs tulips with pansies at the entrance to West Green House in Sussex, along with soft, wheat-coloured carex to tickle those lemon, peach and lilac tones.
Tucked away in the courtyard of an Oxford college, we noted these terracotta pots filled with a rainbow ripple of mixed tulips, and underplanted with fragrant Virginian stock.
Pots are easy, but if you have some space, a dazzling effect can be constructed with a few complementary tones and a contrasting bolt of colour. Here, in the Old Garden at Hidcote, I heard 25 cameras click as we came across this breathtaking example of how to use tulips in a garden full of existing shrubs. The display of amethyst, ruby, rose quartz and topaz shines above sapphire-blue Spanish bluebells.
Take it home
So what should you look for if you get to the nursery or garden centre today? I find the Australian-bred tulips perform the best in warmer regions like Sydney (we have even started exporting new and improved varieties to Holland!). Australian-bred Monet tulips are large, bold-flowering varieties that come in a good selection of colours, and are worth paying a little extra for. I also recommend ‘Single Late Tulips’ which are tall, strong-growing tulips with nicely formed flowers, and which are also good for warmer regions.
Photos: Linda Ross
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