I don’t really like novelty-colored tulips. And my experience of green tulips in particular is, well, not so hot. (Sometimes green tulips are called viridiflora tulips; they’re the ones with the thick green stripe down the petals.)
Yet the moment I saw ‘Formosa’, backlit in the Scheepers catalogue, I was drawn in. Attraction can be like that. Through all the multiple crossings-out that take place between my first list (for, oh, say, several hundred dollars’ worth of bulbs) and my last (much more moderate, but still more than I should really sensibly spend), Formosa remained. I wanted this tulip in my life.
I actually got Formosa fall before last, but for some reason it, and other tulips I planted that year, didn’t emerge, except blind. (“Blind” is a term for bulbs who put up leaves but don’t flower. You can see why you’d want a shorter term for that.)
But this year, the spiky clawed buds came up and opened into flowers rather flatter than the usual tulip.
Formosa has been worth the wait. It’s not a big, showy flower, but it has a charm of its own, like many heirloom tulips. It’s officially a yellow tulip with green stripes, but the effect is a radiant chartreuse.
Formosa’s luminous green blends beautifully with all the spring greens surrounding it, and it is beautiful with other tulips.
This unusual stripey combination may never happen again in my lifetime. I’d planted the early greigii tulip ‘Professor de Monsseri’ in with the late Formosa, figuring it would be good succession planting. But this year, our spring has been so cold and rainy that all the flowers have lasted and lasted, and they’re blooming together in stripey splendor.
In the garden, under the newly-leaved oaks, chartreuse Formosa sets off ember-colored ‘Annie Schilder’.
When the black tulips near Formosa start opening, the two will be a satisfying combination of deep and luminous, light-drawing and light-radiating. I know this because I already have a preview in the vase.
This bouquet combines ‘Dreaming Maid’ in its later, more purple stage, and ‘Paul Scherer’ along with Formosa, with a little white-flowered lunaria in for interest. I love the way ‘Paul Scherer’ is the exact same chocolate-black color as the anthers on Formosa.
I’m always torn about cutting tulips, because I enjoy them so much in the garden. But putting tulips in a vase is a way to get to know them up close and personal. You get to watch them as they go through all their changes, and notice every little detail of their colors and shapes. Putting a vase of flowers in a spot you often pass by or look toward will subtly, magically, lift your mood. It’s one of those little pleasures of life that make it really worth living.