Easter bulbs

Happy Easter. Yesterday the sun came out in the late afternoon and the tulips celebrated by throwing open their petals. In the raised beds some of the species were looking their best. I planted several kinds of the lady tulip (Tulipa clusiana) and the earliest of these are in bloom. I have grown this many times and found it to be a good perennial. But like all tulips, it prefers good drainage and a summer baking so I am hoping that these beds will prove to be to its liking.

This species is from Iran, eastwards, though it has naturalised in the Mediterranean region and is generally considered relatively easy to grow. It is slender, with narrow foliage that is curled and greyish and does not dominate the slender flowers on their slim stalks. Typically the flowers are white with a red reverse to the outer three tepals that make them attractive whether the flowers are closed, partly open or fully open. Like many tulips, the flowers look very different at various stages of maturity. This one is ‘Stellata’ which is white and has long petals and when it is warm they open completely flat. The black anthers are very distinctive when the blooms are open.

Tulipa clusiana var chrsantha ‘Tubergens’ is a variation with yellow flowers. They seem to be slightly smaller but they are a bit later so it is difficult to be precise.

I have added a few choice muscari to these beds. I know that grape hyacinths are hated by many gardeners but that is solely because M. armeniacum is such a weed, seedling prolifically. Most are well behaved and useful. There is a double form of M. armeniacum which is more showy than the species and has a broad head of scruffy flowers that are mutated into irregular clusters of petals and is sterile. ‘Fantasy Creation’ is also double and has long-lasting heads of green and blue petals. It is curious and looks a bit like blue broccoli – I am still not sure about it.

‘Double Beauty’ is relatively new and I think it is a mutation of ‘Peppermint, but I am not sure. It is a delicate colour, in shades of pale blue and green and the flowers are not too mutated – in fact on small spikes the doubling is hard to detect. I have it planted beside and under Centaurea bella. This is a new plant to me with dissected grey and silver leaves and pink/mauve cornflower blooms. It is supposed to bloom all summer and had a few, late flowers when I planted it in October. It looked good all winter and there are a few buds about to open – I hope they make it in time to complement the muscari. I am hoping the centaurea will cover the dying muscari and provide colour all summer on this corner of a bed.
‘Grape Ice is a cultivar of M. latifolium and has one or two large, broad leaves. The stems are almost 20cm high and hold the flowers well above the foliage. The flowers are typical of many muscari with very different sizes and colours at different areas of the spike. The lower flowers are rich purple and the upper flowers age to white. It is a nice thing and I hope it bulks up. The leaf beside it is Pseudopanax ferox. It has not grown a new leaf for a year so I hope it is OK but the leaf is supposed to look like an old saw blade!

Tulipa tarda is a common species tulip with low blooms of yellow, edged with white. It is a central Asian species and usually adapts well to gardens.

Here the flowers are partly obscured by the foliage of reticulate iris but they were not hidden enough to fool some solitary mining bees that were basking in the sun and covering themselves with pollen. While weeding I noticed that these bees have made their home in the raised beds. I dug in lots of sand and there are patches of sand around the edge and around the palm to aid drainage and the bees have obviously found this the ideal place to make their home – even better when there is food just outsidethe front door. When I finally get round to it these beds will be covered in fine gravel and I hope I don’t upset the bees. I am sure they will cope but I am so pleased to see them and that my gardening has created a new habitat for a species that would have otherwise been unable to live here that I have started worrying for them!

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One Comment on “Easter bulbs”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    April 17, 2022 at 9:16 am #

    The Tulipa clusiana cultivars are excellent garden plant and perfectly perennial. There is a good artice on muscari in the current issue of The English Garden by the National Collection holder, Richard Hobbs.

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