Monday, June 7, 2010

The last tulip

Several tulips are in contention to be the last to bloom in the garden, but in my experience, Tulipa sprengeri takes the prize. It has lots going for it: although tulips seem to have perfected the color red, few plants seem to have as laquered and shiny of Chinese red flowers as this amazing species. Don't bother looking for it in catalogs: it eschews the conventional methods of cultivation used in Holland. This is one to get by getting a handful of seeds from a friend and scattering them hither and yon. It seems to grow wherever you put it. These came from my late friend John Worman, who gave me an envelope of seed from his garden almost 30 years ago. They have been prospering in the Rock Alpine Garden ever since (still blooming on June 7!). I have scattered them in my old and new gardens, and they have popped up in shady beds, rich borders and in bluegramma lawns, growing as lustily in shade as in full sun.
I have read that this is extinct in the wild. I somehow hope some of this accommodating plant has survived in Northern Turkey where it was first collected. I understand Kew is trying to reestablish it in the wild. What better argument for ex situ conservation than this plant, which is thriving in gardens world wide, naturalizing in wide swaths and giving us inordinate pleasure.


  1. and blooming here in Durango too on the 8th. one group held back by a snow bank escaped the marauding deer that ate all the others!

  2. Darned deer!
    Eating an extinct plant: how tacky!

  3. perhaps some extinct felines such as sabertooths to eat a few deer who eat a few tulips?

  4. According to E.O. Wilson we humans did in all those extinct Pleistocene megafauna like sabertooths...and are busy extinguishing plenty of microfauna and microflora as we speak. I have often fantasized about what the West must have been like populated with two species of elephant, a rhinocerous, camels, horses, indeed no end of ungulates (as well as giant pigs, sloths, giant lions as well as sabertooths, and who knows what else...). They must of had an incredible impact on the flora--particularly before the Indians came on the scene and burned everything down to capture and encourage even more of aforementioned animals...musta been a spectacle!


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