Whenever the sun decides to break through the clouds it tempts the tulips to sprint ahead; green buds are flushed with colour, tight buds expand and loose buds open wide to sunbathe. It is all about colour at this time of year. Few people take much notice of tulip leaves even though more variegated types are introduced each year. These usually occur spontaneously in the bulb fields and are spotted by the farmers as they walk their fields picking out rogues.
To my eternal embarrassment I once won a prize at a flower show with tulip leaves. It was at the Museum of Garden History, Lambeth, London, many many years ago when it was just starting up and they had a flower show. I put on an exhibit from Myddelton House, Enfield in support and it manly featured plants associated with the garden although I did grow a few plants specially to add a bit of zing. Among these was Tulipa praestans ‘Unicum’, a species with greyish leaves and two to four scarlet blooms per stem but, in this cultivar, with gorgeous leaves broadly edged with butter yellow. Anyway my pot of these flowered too early but, worried I would have a gap in the display, I carefully took off the faded flowers and popped the pot in the display. Up against exhibits of fancy auriculas and rare bulbs not only did the exhibit get an award but my pot of tulip leaves got the ‘Best in Show’ medal!
New to me this year, and introduced in 2004, is ‘Fire of Love’. Although I cannot find its ancestry and although I have seen it listed as a Fosteriana tulip (which it is not) it looks very much like a sport of ‘Red Riding Hood’ to me, even though it has not bloomed yet.
This also seems likely because ‘Red Riding Hood’ is one of the most widely grown and easiest of the Greigii tulips, with brilliant red flowers in April. Yesterday mine looked like this! Most Greigii tulips have amazing, purple-streaked leaves. They have been crossed with the Kaufmanniana types, which bloom a month earlier and although I love them they bloom when the weather can be cruel to them. The Greigiis have more chance of looking lovely and the flowers tend to be rather waisted in shape.
Anyway, ‘Fire of Love’ looks pretty good now and I have planted it in many pots in different colour combinations. I have a nasty feeling that when the flowers open they will clash with these pansies but for now I will be happy with the combinaton!
Greigii tulips tend to last well in the soil and I will make sure I deadhead these when the flowers fade, let the leaves die down and save these for next year.