Arthur's Blog: Favourite Tulips

14th November 2016

Arthur's Blog: Favourite Tulips

I set tons of tulips in the factory garden, in all the containers and in the raised beds. There are few other flowers which combine lush colours and forms to deliver such a climax of colour, beauty and perfection as tulips do.

Tulips can be planted much later than other bulbs, from now until Boxing Day, so they can even be given as Christmas presents! A late planting is better for ensuring a successful display as the frosts help reduce fungal spores being present in the soil – although if you’re using fresh compost in containers, this isn't so much of a concern. Because I over plant my tulips in pots with wallflower and other hardy annual plants, most of these combinations have been planted already, so that the plants have time to root before the weather turns really cold. Plant your tulips deep in the ground – at least 15 inches. Ensure that pots have lots of crocks or grit in their bases so that they drain well over the winter. If the spring is dry then you will have to water your pots of bulbs, but otherwise they won’t need watering until the start of March.

These are my favourite varieties that I'm planting this autumn:


I love orange, from light apricot to deep blood orange juice shades: it's a colour that flowers can pull off with huge beauty and elegance. In most of the galvanised dust bins, I've planted a mix of the following orange tulips – almost all of which are scented, which I hope will be a huge noticeable bonus!

  • Ballerina: the classiest stalwart of the lily flowering group, proving to be perennial too. In my first spring in the factory garden two years ago, this was the only tulip in the garden to flower, with Matthew having planted them several years previously. It can be seen in his summertime tulip design too.
  • Brown Sugar: a huge new kid on the block, that I'm sure will soon find itself in the must-plant tulip list of many suppliers. I first grew this tulip three years ago at home in Nottinghamshire in a huge glazed, copper-coloured pot. I didn't plant any in the factory garden last year and greatly regretted not doing so, so it will be at large next year! Its huge flowers are held atop tough, tall stems of a toffee complexion.
  • Cairo: a short tulip, and therefore ideal for pots. I like it due to its name – it reminds me of the beautiful documentary series Joanna Lumley's Nile, where Joanna sits on a train holding a vast map of the African continent and declares, 'and our first stop is Cairo!'
  • Whittallii: I fell for this little tulip species last year at Perch Hill, where it had been planted in terracotta Long Tom pots in Sarah's Oast garden. Small but zesty and exotic, this is one of the tulips that I'm most looking forward to seeing again in the spring of 2017!

Purple, Scarlet and Blue

To have just orange tulips would be too much for the eyes, and for me too tame of a colour scheme – the largely orange-flowering party will be intercepted slightly by deeper, richer colours, given off by my other favourite stalwart varieties, that I plant year in year out.

  • Black Hero: a conker tulip of the deepest blackcurrant jam – almost black satin in the sun, being totally double it flowers for ages and is brilliant for a vase. Similar in form, being another of the peony flowering group, is 'Antraciet' – of silk scarlet, this will be mistaken for an early peony by visitors!
  • Blue Parrot: One of the latest to flower and of thick, curvy, blue wax-like petals. I like to plant it with alliums so that it clashes with their glitterball flowers.

Arthur's Factory Tulip Bulb List

  • • Brown Sugar – triumph – buff brown
  • • Ballerina – lily flowered – orange
  • • Cairo – triumph – orange
  • • Whittallii – species – orange/yellow
  • • Sarah Raven – lily flowered – velvet burgundy
  • • Black Hero – double late – almost black
  • • Antraciet – double late – raspberry satin red
  • • Blue Parrot – parrot – wax baby blue/lilac
  • • Chato – double early – deep pink
  • • Bruine whimpel – single late – plum purple and buff
  • • La Belle Ιpoque – double late – coffee froth with a hint of smoky pink
  • • Ronaldo – triumph – deep plum purple
  • • Black Parrot – parrot – deep coffee grain, sultry purple
  • • Flaming Parrot – parrot – red and yellow bright
  • • Jan Reus – triumph – a deep claret almost purple
  • • Van Elk hybrids – Darwin hybrids – pink touched white, peach to deep pink tones

All these tulips can be bought via mail order from

Happy gardening and thanks for reading,

14th November 2016