Tulip Mania

Tulip mania.

I readily admit I’ve been suffering from it for some time.

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I drool over catalogues in the autumn and wonder just how many more bulbs I can fit in.

I’ve been through the dark phase.

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And darks mixed with brights

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The pretty phase.

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The bright phase.

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And the pastels.

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I plant them in borders and in pots…..


…. and window boxes.


I photograph, study and paint them, in all their ravishing detail.

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I haunt the purveyors of bulbs …

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Mr Middleton garden shop

… both at home and abroad

Amsterdam Flower Market

Amsterdam Flower Market

and look forward to that spectacular display in the late spring.

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Tulips bulbs were first  imported from Turkey (Ottoman Empire) to Vienna in the mid 16th Century.

In Turkey you can often see the tulip motif repeated in embroidery, tiles and carpets.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

From Vienna they made their way to Antwerp and Amsterdam, where the possession of these bulbs became a status symbol at a time of trade success and wealth in the Netherlands. The intense colour of the petals was unknown in any other plant in Europe at that time.

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In 1636, at the height of “tulip mania” in the Netherlands , bulbs could change hands ten times in a day and some single tulip bulbs were sold for ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.

Of course the bubble burst, but tulips will forever be associated with Amsterdam.

Tulips from Amsterdam.

Tulips from Amsterdam.

If you want to see tulips planted en masse head for the Floralia festival, held outside Brussels  at the Castle of Groot-Bijgaarden. ( 3rd April – 3rd May 2015) where 1 million bulbs are planted each year, including 400 tulip varieties.

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At Floralia, it is not just about the tulips –  narcissi, hyacinths and fritallaria all take part in a Spring explosion of scent and colour.

So here are tulips mixed with fritillaria imperialis

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… and tulips with narcissi

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… and white tulips mixed with muscari

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Keukenhof is the Dutch festival of tulips and a treat not to be missed either.

The Tulip Gallery is a helpful site if you want to identify a type :


I used to plant my tulip bulbs in November, after the first frost, to avoid the fungal “tulip fire” ; however, over recent years I’ve planted them in late September with good results.

But they do not like waterlogged soil. In their native habitat of Turkey, they spend their summers underground in baking heat, so they do not like heavy damp soils. You can aid drainage by adding some horticultural grit when planting, at least 12cm deep.

Tulip heart, Floralia

Tulip heart, Floralia

You will not be disappointed with the wonderful display in spring.

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21 thoughts on “Tulip Mania

  1. Brilliant. Super photos that really lures one in to wanting to leap into action and start planting to enjoy that wonderful feast next spring. You seem to have a way with words and photos. Keep it up


  2. I wouldn’t normally like a “heart” of red tulips but in that setting, reflecting in the water, I think it looks beautiful. We have a problem with pheasant coming into the garden and digging up tulips so I tend to grow them in containers but, like Christopher, I now want to plant more because your photos are so alluring. I have never tried planting them amongst the Crown Imperials but I think it might be worth a go.


  3. Sumptuous indeed! A quick question: you write that tulips don’t like waterlogged soil; how often, then, should I water them during a dry spell? Thanks again for the gorgeous photography and informative detail!


    • Tulips are grown in our wettest seasons – from bulbs planted in autumn through to their flowering in spring so they should get enough rainfall and moisture from the ground. They like well-drained soil, add some grit when planting to aid drainage,in full sun. They should be planted about 15cm deep.
      Hope this helps and glad you like the photographs.


    • Shame about the tulips but lots of other lovely plants you can grow, as you say. I didn’t grow tulips when I lived in South Africa but was very happy with strelitzias, proteas and other native plants. The right plant in the right place…


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  5. My appetite is well and truly whetted ! Lovely photos. Love the phases you have been through with your planting, I can relate to that ! Think I am stuck in the angst of my dark phase, never to emerge into the light…


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