Spring Queens

Tulipa 'Ile de France' with Myosotis - Forget me nots planted on the Circular Steps at Great Dixter, Northiam - © Carol Casselden/GAP Photos

Tulipa ‘Ile de France’ with Myosotis – Forget me nots planted on the Circular Steps at Great Dixter, Northiam – © Carol Casselden/GAP Photos

The tulip reigns supreme in the spring garden. The elegant flowers offer a broad spectrum of colour and form, ranging from fiery oranges and reds, to subtle sugary pinks, creams and whites. Blooms may be fringed, fluted or double, but the traditional single cup-shaped tulips are often top of designers’ lists, their simplicity and beauty offering spectacular displays when planted en masse.

When choosing a site for your tulips, follow Fergus Garrett’s lead. Head gardener at Great Dixter in East Sussex, Fergus has planted a bed of Tulipa ‘Ile de France’ where the early morning sun will backlight their clear red flowers, creating an army of blazing torches above a cool sea of blue forget-me-nots.

Tulips are best planted in the autumn in light, sandy soil, enriched with a top dressing of bone meal. They flower best in full sun or partial shade – a few hours of sun each day to open up the blooms will be fine. Unless your soil is very free draining, the bulbs will need to be lifted after they have flowered and the leaves have died down naturally, but they do not need feeding at this stage. Keep the bulbs in a cool, airy place until they are ready to be planted out again in November.

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