Let’s consider some of the different types of tulips available now for planting this fall
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

August 27, 2017

Above, Fosteriana ‘Red Emperor’; Keizerscroon; Apeldoorn; and West Point. Below, Estella Rijnveld; Angelique; Douglas Baader; and Canada 150




I always like to write and suggest that sometime around the end of October is the "artificial deadline" for getting daffodil and narcissus bulbs planted. They only do well if they have time to put out roots before the ground freezes solidly. While that does not apply to tulips, it is not an excuse for gardeners to delay getting and planting those bulbs as well.

With a little care in selection, you may now enjoy a tulip garden in bloom throughout the spring. Your garden can include early, mid-season, and late-flowering tulips which will allow you to stretch your "personal tulip time."

The earliest of tulips--the very early-flowering types--are among the most fascinating. They are the classes known as Kaufmanniana, Fosteriana and Greigii. My personal favourite early tulip is a Fosteriana known as 'Red Emperor'. Early flowering tulips include the Single Early and Double Early. The Single Early are single cupped in form, and come in a rainbow of colours that makes them more popular today than at any time in their 300-year history. I suggest you include one very old variety known as 'Keizerskroon' for sure. The variegated yellow and red markings are very interesting. Double Early tulips have large, widely open double flowers which makes them excellent for mass plantings.

Midseason tulips to choose from include the Triumph and Darwin Hybrid classes. All of these bloom at approximately the last week of April and on into May. The Darwin Hybrids are especially fascinating, a fine achievement in the history of the tulip. They have the largest flowers yet produced and provide a striking effect in the garden with their many brilliant shades: orange-scarlet, golden yellow and carmine, for example. Be sure to include 'Apeldoorn' from this classification.

Late flowering tulips, formerly known as Darwin and Cottage, and now reclassified as Single Late, bring spendour to the garden in May. Darwin tulips, named after the great botanist, are important historically as the first few bulbs imported from Turkey to Western Europe were of essentially this type. They have large-cupped flowers distinctively squared off at the base and top of the petals. Darwin tulips come in a wide range of colours, all with a distinctive satiny texture. These make excellent cut flowers and may also be forced in pots indoors. I like the wine-red 'Halcro' in this class.

Also among the late-flowering tulips are the lily-flowered which actually look like lilies and are the most graceful and elegant of garden tulips. Plant a grouping of at least two dozen 'West Point' for a bright patch of yellow.

The Parrot tulips--a particular favourite of mine--have fringed or wavy petals; be sure to plant the red mixed with white 'Estella Rijnveld'. They will make an ideal focal point in your garden.

Finally, in this class, the Double-Late varieties. Try, for example, 'Angelique'. These resemble peonies so much that they are called peony flowered tulips.

There are still many tulips that I have not mentioned. If you have a rock garden, many of the Species tulips will provide something just a little different in the way of a Spring show. Consider 'Orphanidea Flava', with unusual bronze flowers, striped green on the outside, and an inside of lemon-yellow which shades to red. This is just one example of many available. Do your bulb shopping soon. These unusual varieties often sell out early!

According to the Dutch flower bulb industry, in recent years, pastels are taking the spotlight. The soft look in a natural setting is becoming more popular. Instead of placing tulip bulbs uniformly (side by side like soldiers) the current preferred look for some, is to plant bulbs in clusters or drifts of five, seven or nine (odd numbers look better than even). The apricot-coloured tulips 'Douglas Baader', and the so-called pink daffodils with their pale salmon or peach centres, such as 'Apricot Beauty' and 'Salome' are favourites, especially when combined with other bulbs such as Galanthus, Leucojum and Muscari. These bulbs will naturalize well, that is, will bloom year after year and multiply over time, creating an informal scene as if Mother Nature had planted it herself. The most important point to remember is to buy your bulbs from a reliable garden centre or specialist bulb dealer, where not only a wide selection of the largest bulbs is available, but also good advice on how to plant.


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