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Tulip Foliage: Part 2


Most people don’t think of tulip foliage as a color display, but once I saw colors in the early stages of tulips, I got on a roll looking for tulip foliage with pink and red in it. I remembered the pink-edged foliage of the Fosteriana Sweetheart, which I’d noticed and photographed last spring.

And now I’d started looking, I saw foliage with pink-edges, white edges, and deep-red-streaks peeking out of the catalogue pictures of several fosterianas.

I finally got it: reds and pinks on tulip foliage are not unusual. Greggii tulips are known for their striped and mottled foliage; the stripes are usually some form of cream and deep purple-red. kaufmannia tulips are famous for their mottled foliage, too.  Fosterianas other than ‘Sweetheart’ have color in their foliage, too. Colored tulip foliage is all over.

But tulip foliage doesn’t have to be colorful to delight. The broad leaves become a shadow catchment


with the show changing throughout the day.


Those of you who are extra-sensitive might want to skip the next picture: it’s an illustration of what happens when you don’t deer-protect your foliage; the emerging flower bud and stalk gets chomped, leaving only foliage behind to feed the bulb for another year, when, if all goes well, it will flower again..



To cheer us up from this moment of mortality, there’s the wiggly aspect of tulip foliage. I’m not quite sure what makes this happen; I don’t know if it’s related to the kind of tulip, the temperature at certain times of growth, or what. Here is a sea of ‘Apricot Beauty’ and ‘Dreaming Maid’ foliage, in varying degrees of wiggiliness.


Apricot Beauty seems to specialize in wiggily: this is an example of where foliage snared my eye more than flowers:


If the snow comes late, tulip foliage makes wiggily green waves on the white:



This spring, try keeping an eye on all tulips have to offer, right from the first sprout. That way you can prolong garden pleasure without extra work: just put your attention in the right place.

I’ll be writing about one way to preserve tulip foliage from pests soon – but before that, we’re going to have another letter from Sylvia, about a different kind of foliage plant.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Sue March 13, 2009, 7:11 pm

    Hi Pomona,
    I enjoyed your posts on tulip foliage. I have a few with quite pretty leaves myself. Most of mine are up, but I wonder if the squirrels ate the ones in my new bed. They haven’t poked up yet.

    Happy Almost Spring!

  • Karen - An Artist's Garden March 14, 2009, 2:10 am

    Pomona, you are right tulip foliage does have a certain beauty

  • Daffodil Planter March 17, 2009, 12:34 pm

    Pomona, Wonderful wiggles! I am longing for some ‘Apricot Beauty’ of my own, and cling to the hope that your pest control post will make that possible.

  • Pomona Belvedere March 19, 2009, 4:29 pm

    DP, I use Deer Off or Liquid Fence on my tulip foliage, and if I keep up with the new growth (that’s the tricky part), my Apricot Beauties bloom beautifully, un-deer-chomped. (In fact some of them are, weirdly, blooming right now – with the hyacinths and before some of my narcissus.)

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