Saturday, February 9, 2013

Vermilion blush...

Red emperor (Tulipa fosteriana)
 I realized (blusing a deep vermilion shade) that approximately 2% of those visiting this blog are probably pretty pissed off: the page that has received far and away the most hits is "Autumn Embers" which is a very mediocre post I did years ago talking about the subtle shades of foliage in the fall: I was curious why this was such a popular post, so I Googled "Autumn Embers" and realized that rhody fanciers were clicking on it to learn more about the re-blooming orange-red azalea by that cultivar name....I can almost hear them click another URL in disgust...oh well. Perhaps a little bouquet of tulips will calm their souls. Red tulips tulips. They are brash and bright and frankly, I can't have enough of them. They love Colorado, so you must forgive me for flaying you with them: I like them! Red emperor (above) is hard to beat: I was responsible for planting hundreds of these in front of Mayor Hiclenooper's offices in Downtown Denver where they made a spectacle--another story!

Tulpa albertii
 I have only seen this magnificent tulip at Denver botanic gardens...I'm not sure if I like it more all by itself...
Tulipa albertii
 Or in a glittering, glimmering mass...I have seen a few tulips in the wild in Greece and Kazakhstan (although only at high elevations in the latter--although I saw tons of seed capsules!). What fun it must be find these in the Spring!

Tulipa humilis
 A change of palette for the nonce: enough scarlet! How about magenta? I have a special fondness for this group because they love our climate especially, and self sow prodigiously on my xeriscape. I would dearly love to see T. humilis on the mountaintops of Mesopotamia/Caucasus where it is apparently common--well heck, it's common chez moi as well!
Tulipa humilis at Quince
                                                                                                                                                                              I'll bet there's a hillside in Iran that looks just like this! Well, guess what? It's in Denver!
Tulipa humils

 And here's a paler pink form that's clumping up. Hard to believe these could be blooming in a month!

Tulipa eichleri
 Back to the scarlets: here is one of the more long lived sorts that clumps up nicely. Not often to be found in bulb catalogs lately...

Tulipa eichleri at Quince st. garden
 Here's one of the banks on east ridge where it has naturalized...

Tulipa vvedenskyi and Aubrieta
 I have a much nicer pic of this in transparency: maybe one day I will scan it. I have seen these very plants photographed and published in books, calendars etc. (I had no idea when I planted these together I'd be creating a sort of classic)...imitation is the sincerest form of flattery--thank you, photographers, for immortalizing this planting! I must remember to re-create it at home too...

Tulipa greigii
 I can't remember if I took this at DBG or at Kendrick Lake--there are lavish plantings of this at both. They often bloom so early--late March some years--that many visitors miss ths outrageouse splash of color. Only in April can you get away with this much vermilion madness...

Tulipa chrysantha ex Goteborg

On a calmer note, this is a closeup of a little tulip I got years ago from Henrik Zetterlund. It prospered at my old house, and when we moved to Quince, I scattered seed in our new blue gramma meadow--perhaps ten years ago. Those seedlings germinated, and multiple clumps throughout the meadow are spreading. I believe it will not be too long before the whole little meadow is a solid patch of these--

One of the great mysteries of spring for me is why I see so few tulips in local landscapes when they are so beloved by people, so incredibly cheap and so easy to plant and maintain...oh well. I add dozens each year, and dream of the day I might visit them in April in their native haunts in Central Asia...


  1. One reason that we don't see more in landscapes is deer. I think there is little left that is deer-proof in the garden- especially when they are hard pressed during drought. Local retail nurseries make a big point of telling customers that deer love tulips and won't touch daffodils.
    I find myself that most species tulips are done flowering by the time the deer show up and the later ones are worth protecting in some way. But why let deer dictate what we will plant anyway?
    I can see my list for ordering next fall is getting longer,...

  2. Of course, Asia was chockablock full of deer and all manner of herbivores where Tulips originated. I think the strategy Nature employs is to have countless numbers of them--so there are some for deer to browse, and plenty left for us. So the answer to growing tulips in deer country is just plant lots and hire a cougar.

  3. I read recently that deer are omnivores and will eat carrion if they can, so perhaps we should also just spread some roadkill around,...

  4. Most municipalities could definitely do a better job managing deer. Here in Illinois, the density of deer should be around 10 per square mile. When management of the herd is stopped, the number can easily rise to over 10 times the sustainable level. At this population density you lose the entire forest understory, all but the most unpatable shrubs, and all quality tree seedlings. A managed deer population will allow a healthy population of trilliums, lilies, or other favorites to thrive. However, tulips are a favorite and it only takes one deer one night to wipe out an entire bed. If deer lived in my neighborhood I would protect my yard like Fort Knox.


  5. I was slowly developing an interest in gardening when I moved to Colorado, but it was the surprise of crocus and tulips coming up in my new front yard that finally tipped me over the edge. I have been adding hundreds of bulbs to the garden every year since. I live in Longmont and we don't have a deer problem. (Yet: our first dear in a decade of living here made its way down the St. Vrain last summer.) My parents live in the foothills and they can't even grow daffodils without covering them: the elk will pull them out of the ground and then spit them out once they realize they don't taste good!

    I am moving this year to different climes and it is the species tulips that I will miss the most.

  6. Moving away from our paradise? Unless you are moving to the deep tropics, there are some tulips that will do for you--many Mediterranean sorts grow right down to the seashore--and these will grow in San Diego if need be.

    And, James, the overpopulation of deer is a disaster for the Eastern woods, but a major hindrance to gardeners everywhere. Something MUST be done about it. Venison anyone?

  7. Moving away from our paradise? Unless you are moving to the deep tropics, there are some tulips that will do for you--many Mediterranean sorts grow right down to the seashore--and these will grow in San Diego if need be.

    Well, it's either Hilo, HI or Austin, TX. It's beginning to look more like the latter, so I won't have to shed too many tears for my lost tulips!


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