Tulips – we tend to love them or hate them, rich folk in the 17th century paid huge sums for a single bulb. Either way they can add a bold splash of colour to the garden.
I have a border which looks good in the Spring which is planted under an espalier pear. It has a lily flowered variety of tulip called Ballerina underplanted with deep blue forget me nots. The combination of white blossom on the pear, orange tulips and blue forget me nots is lovely as long as the forget me nots don't succumb to mildew.
I love the lily flowered tulips, they are so elegant. Last year I bought a variety called 'Burgundy'. Aptly named, it has gorgeous purple/red flowers on long stems. This year I'm planning a new alpine garden, so I've ordered some of the smaller tulips, a variety called 'Little Beauty' which grows to only 10 cm to add some instant colour. The catalogue describes them as 'vivid rosy purple with striking deep blue centre edged white'; they will enjoy the well drained, open aspect I've got planned for them. If you like something a bit less garish, there are some pretty white tulips, the best in my view being 'White Triumphator which is widely available in garden centres. They have long stems, so don't plant them somewhere too exposed.
The alpine garden has been long in the planning and I've had lots of fun thinking about it and, of course, begging and buying plants. I've got pinks, the smaller, mat growing ones such as our native cheddar pink which is so easy to grow from cuttings or 'pipings' to give them their correct name.and Dianthus 'Mystic Star' is another pink which smells of chocolate. Creeping thymes and low growing Sedums will make little carpets of colour. A plant new to me is Erodium guttatum which has pretty, feathery leaves and red and white flowers from May to August. For a little height I've found a dwarf grass, Miscanthus sinensis 'Silver Stripe' which should reach around 50cm. The smaller, neater hardy geraniums will be moved from elsewhere in the garden where they are getting swamped by bigger plants and my Auriculas which currently get neglected in pots will have new homes where they can get their roots well down into the soil.
Looking out of the window as I write in mid September I am enjoying a lovely combination of planting which actually worked how I intended for a change. It is the Dahlia 'David Howard', orange flowers and bronze leaves; white Cosmos I grew from seed called 'Purity' and purple Verbena Bonariensis. It has looked good now since late July and will continue until the frosts see it off.
Here's hoping for a sunny, colourful Autumn!