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Welcome to our Head Gardener’s Journal

In this monthly column, we will share technical aspects of our work and also keep you up to date about ongoing projects. If there is any topic you might want to hear more about, please ask during your next visit!


One of the spring garden highlights in all our gardens is the colourful display of tulips in borders and pots. The love of tulips in Western Europe goes back as far as the early 17th century, when, in the Netherlands, tulips imported from Asia Minor were being revered as treasures and single bulbs fetched astronomical prices. In fact, ‘Tulipmania’ was the first major financial bubble, driving many tulip addicts to ruin. While, nowadays, tulips are much more widely available and affordable, they have not lost their magical pull. Festivals are held throughout the country to celebrate this glamorous and fascinating spring flower.

Following on from our first Morton Hall Gardens Tulip Festival last year, held in conjunction with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Bloms Bulbs, we spent months preparing for this year’s even better show.

Due to the Corona virus crisis which has changed our lives so suddenly and dramatically, all flower shows had to be cancelled. We felt that if our visitors cannot come to us to see the tulips, we can at least bring glimpses of our display to them. Here are some of our favourite combinations sprinkled with information on the individual varieties:

Gentleness pure: ‘Blue Diamond’ and ‘Sapporo’.

Blue Diamond, first introduced in 1962, is a peony-flowered variety which blooms for a good month from mid-April. The blooms are very compact and age gracefully, changing to a darker colour without ever falling apart. Sapporo belongs to the dainty lily-flowered tulip group which are nevertheless remarkably sturdy. They may open wide during the day, but then close neatly for the night. Sapporo which was introduced in 1992 is a shorter alternative to ‘White Triumphator’ for the front of the border. It may catch you by surprise as the flowers open in a soft yellow before maturing to pure white. This combination is a perfect fit for the pastel colour scheme in the South Garden.

Heirloom and Avant Garde: ‘Mount Tacoma’ and ‘Night Club’

These two very different tulips make an exciting and contrasting combination for the front of the South Garden borders. Mount Tacoma, introduced in 1924 and therefore one of the oldest varieties still available, is a peony-flowered tulip with glistening white petals and subtle green feathering. It has won many well-deserved awards for its beauty and vitality. Night Club (2007) belongs to a series of recently introduced multi-headed varieties which certainly have a ‘wow factor’.

Vibrancy and vivacity: ‘Uncle Tom’ and ‘Flaming Spring Green’.

This pair creates drama in the Kitchen Garden Sunset Borders. ‘Uncle Tom’ is another long-standing peony-flowered variety which was introduced in 1939. Its colour has been described as ‘mahogany’, ‘maroon’, ‘wine’ and otherwise. None of these attempts match what is simply the perfect red! Like the other members of the peony-flowered group, Uncle Tom comes up early and ages gracefully. We have chosen ‘Flaming Spring Green’ as its partner which is a recently introduced Viridiflora tulip (1999). Where Uncle Tom makes a decisive statement, Flaming Spring Green hovers above the fresh herbaceous foliage like a tropical butterfly. Its red stripes, however, are an exact match for the colour of Uncle Tom.

Summer heat: ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Black Hero’

One of the best-known lily-flowered tulips, soft orange ‘Ballerina’ (1980) has deservedly won an Award of Garden Merit. It makes a striking combination with ‘Black Hero’, which is a tall, imposing peony-flowered tulip and one of the last to emerge. Black Hero was bred as a double form of ‘Queen of Night’ (1944), an unchallenged royalty amongst the tulips. Like all ‘black’ flowers, black tulips have a magical quality which is enhanced by the contrast to Ballerina.

A gently moonlit night: ‘Café Noir’ and ‘Moonlight Girl’

Both varieties are relatively recent introductions. Café Noir (1999) is a single late tulip which impresses through its glistening black colour. It is a shorter alternative to Queen of Night for the middle of the border. Moonlight Girl (2004), like Ballerina, carries an Award of Garden Merit. Its character, however, is completely different and it could not me more aptly named. This soft combination is very well suited to the gentler colour scheme of the Sunrise borders.

Should you have fallen in love with any of these beauties, you may order them from Bloms Bulbs who will be ready to supply bulbs for autumn planting from late April onwards. Take your pick!