You have probably planted most of your spring bulbs by now, but it’s not too late to add tulips to the mix, ready to create a riot of colour next season.
With this in mind, Consumers’ Association magazine Which? Gardening has been scouring the country to ask head gardeners exactly how they achieve their show-stopping tulip displays.
In RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire they use a sizzling combination of Tulipa Ballerina (orange), Queen of Night (dark purple) and Jan Reus (dark red).
Garden manager Alison Goding explains: “The Triumph tulip Jan Reus starts flowering in April and is 50cm high, while Queen of Night and Ballerina flower in May and are 60cm high, so the overall display has more depth and lasts a bit longer.”
The tulips are in a raised bed filled with topsoil, mixed with garden compost and grit to improve drainage, and bulbs are planted at a depth of three to four times the size of the bulb, 15cm apart.
A cooler theme is adopted at the Dorothy Clive Garden in Market Drayton, Shropshire (www.dorothyclivegarden.co.uk), combining white tulips Purissima with masses of soft blue forget-me-nots and Allium Purple Sensation, which appear in late spring.
Margaret Barry, deputy curator of the garden, says: “This cool theme is pleasing on the eye due to the limited tones of colour.
“The varying textures also make this display appealing: a fluffy carpet of forget-me-nots punctuated by strong, linear stems supporting symmetrical blooms.”
The gardeners change the bed every year and in spring 2014 will be offering a vibrant display of Purple Flag, Christmas Orange and Christmas Marvel (cerise pink), with an underplanting of deep-blue Sylva forget-me-nots, which don’t tend to self-seed as much as other varieties.
If you want ideas for stunning pots of tulips, look no further than Rousham in Oxfordshire (www.rousham.org), where you can see amazing displays of majestic purple tulips, interspersed with pots of white ones.
Varieties include Jackpot (purple with white edge), Snowstar (white), Ronaldo (stocky purple-red), Havran (tall dark purple) and Ballade (pink with white edge).
Head gardener Ann Starling says: “I started with purple varieties then added others. I first staged the tulips in pots like this about eight years ago.
“I repeat it each year because it works, and purple is a different colour for spring.
“We empty the pots of their summer plantings then fill them with 15-25 bulbs each. The pots are sometimes put into coldframes in cold weather. If you do shelter planted-up pots in this way be careful, as you have to water them.”
Square containers work as well as round pots for tulip displays, as visitors to Easton Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk will find.