wordless wednesday: tulips

Tulip La Belle Epoque, cottage garden, gardening blog


outside-in: April 11/12

Outside-in charts my attempts to bring the garden into the house with haphazard English Freestyle flower arranging.

Sarah Raven brandy snap mix, cottage garden, gardening blog

Our vases have been full of tulips this month.

My favourites for picking were Sarah Raven’s brandy snap mix.

Their colours seem to suit the garden and the house. Steve prefers tulips in bright reds and yellows – I like them too – but these softer colours are more harmonious and gentler on the eye.

I’m especially smitten with a variety called belle epoque. It reminds me of the coral charm peony we have by the back door. I find it difficult to pick peonies since their flowers are so fleeting, but it feels far more acceptable to cut a few tulips. These lasted a good week in the vase, and smelt wonderful – almost summery.

belle epoque cottage garden, gardening blog

an overblown belle epoque tulip is almost peony-like

In fact, some of them looked a little nondescript in the garden, but came alive on a windowsill when they caught the sun.

Tulip Cairo and Ronaldo, cottage garden, gardening blog

this rust-coloured cairo tulip looks more remarkable in a vase than in the garden

Its hard to believe these flowers came from the dry bulbs I planted on a bitter day in November.


Back in September when I was ordering tulip bulbs, I thought I’d been a bit extravagant. But now I wish I’d doubled or tripled our budget.

lilac wonder tulip, cottage garden, gardening blog

‘lilac wonder’ looks gorgeous from every angle

We plant most of our tulips in pots. It means we can plonk them here and there around the garden wherever it needs brightening up, and put them out of the way when they start dying back.

A lesson I learnt last year was to plant bulbs in layers, cramming as many as possible into a single pot. It gives a more impressive display, and doesn’t do them any harm as long as they aren’t touching each other.

synaeda king, cottage garden, gardening blog

I put three pots of ‘synaeda king’ around the base of the pear tree. Six or seven pots would have looked better

The only problem with the cramming technique is that I ended up with just two or three pots of each colour. Next year I’m going to plant more bulbs overall, but use fewer varieties so they make more impact.

honky tonk tulip, cottage garden, gardening blog

‘honky tonk’ are lovely and unassuming – I think they’d look better planted en masse

Ranging from the purest, simplest flowers to sumptuous peony-like blooms, tulips perfectly bridge the gap from spring to summer.

tulip groenland, gardening blog, cottage garden

I think these are ‘groenland’…the writing washed off the label*

There’s definitely room for more in my garden.

brandy snap mix, cottage garden, gardening blog

I’ve pictured some of my favourite tulips here – most of them came from Kelways.


* 25 April, update: looking back through my bulb orders, I realise these must be Belle Epoque. I planted them in December after picking them up cheap in  the Sarah Raven end of season sale. They’ve turned out to be my absolute favourites and will be at the top of my list for this year’s bulb order – I won’t want to chance waiting until the sales. But it begs the question – what happened to my groenland tulips? I should have ten of them kicking around somewhere…maybe they were pilfered by the squirrels.  

planting bulbs

hyacinth in pot gardening blogWith the best will in the world, gardening with a little one in tow can sometimes be nerve-wracking. We try to leave M to her own devices as much as possible. But there are limits. Like when she helped me dead-heading one evening, then took every available opportunity to do a spot of live-heading for the following month or so.

Today was different. We had a couple of hours free this afternoon, the sun was shining and I was determined to plant a few pots of tulips. We stayed at my parents’ last night and they gave M some hyacinth and crocus bulbs before we left. It seemed that she was also determined to plant them today, so we set ourselves up with a potting station and dug in.

potting station gardening blog

all set for a gardening afternoon

I was keen to try out a Sarah Raven-style bulb lasagne, where you layer bulbs and compost to get a denser display of flowers. So I showed M which way round her bulbs went and left her to it.

filling pots gardening blog

M loves filling pots with compost, we really ought to get her a sandpit…

When I looked up from my own concoction ten minutes later, I was astonished. She hadn’t made compost castles on the grass or tried to ram four hyacinths into a three inch pot. She had actually planted them. And they were the right way up. Before I could say anything she told me she was going to get some water in case they were thirsty.

watering hyacinth gardening blog

giving them a drink

M turned three recently, and seems to have well and truly left toddler-hood. It looks like I may have a proper gardening buddy now. Until she discovers horses. Or boys.

hyacinth bulbs gardening blog

M’s hyacinths, all present and correct