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Tulipa clusiana (maybe) ‘Lady Jane’

 

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Lady Jane is a tulip I’ve seen on a lot of blogs, so I know I’m not the only one who enjoys its beautiful, spunky character, and its tendency to return, without any special prima-donna attention.

It seems like such a simple tulip. But there’s a lot of confusion around it.  First of all, it isn’t “the clusiana” tulip. You can find Tulipa clusiana at old-bulb specialists; it has narrower petals, a deeper red coloring, and less white-per-red ratio. It looks like this:

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The actual, genuine, real Tulipa clusiana

 

 Second, Lady Jane isn’t a species tulip. The real Tulipa clusiana  was named after Carolus Clusius, who collected bulbs in Turkey and Spain and became curator at the Leyden botanical garden in the late 1500s –  a time when tulips were just starting to arrive in Europe. T. clusiana, named after him, is a species tulip from Iran. (Its coloring and general shape does make it look as if it’s a likely ancestor for Lady Jane). Clusius got it from a Florentine and brought it to Europe, to great acclaim. It was called the ‘Lady Tulip’ (particularly beautiful flowers were often prefaced with ‘Lady’, referring either to the Christian Virgin Mary or more pagan fertility goddesses or both). This, and the somewhat similar coloring, may be the cause of confusion.

Yep. Another “species” tulip that isn’t, even though you will find them listed as such in many catalogues and websites (why is it “in” catalogues and “on” websites?) According to Brent and Becky’s bulbs, the RGBA lists this tulip as “miscellaneous”, meaning that it’s not in any of the cultivar groups for T. clusiana. (Tulipa clusiana chrysantha is, and since it’s a lot cheaper and easier to keep in the garden than the original T. clusiana, a lot of people know this one.)

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The real Lady Jane, in bud

Despite its complicated origins, clothed in obscurity (if anybody knows of a good source for info on this, please say: all my usual ones are stonewalling me. Sheesh. This was supposed to be a quick and easy post, I know this flower) – despite its complicated origins, Lady Jane is an easy, uncomplicated tulip to grow. Its closeness to its origins does mean that it’s good in warmer climates; some say to zone 9, others to zone 8b.  And it returns, and multiplies, always a welcome character trait in someone beautiful. And here’s the real beauty part: it’s cheap. Especially if you buy in quantity. And why not?

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Because it’s smaller than the booming garden-variety tulips, Lady Jane’s bulbs are small, too. They can be tucked into little crevices in rocks, pots of low-water plants, or just wherever you have a spare space for this sweetly reliable flower. They give you a lot of bloom, too; mine usually last about a month, opening in staggered rhythm so I have some in bud while others are going all curly.

I’ve read that there are some who don’t like this tulip’s full-on, open stage; they only like the closed-up morning/evening/rain versions.

 

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All tulips spread themselves out every sunny day – the better for pollination, my dear – and I love Lady Jane’s gentle exuberance as much as her quieter, more introspective moments.

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As with so many things in life, you don’t have to know everything about Lady Jane to enjoy her.

{ 18 comments… add one }

  • catmint May 10, 2009, 3:44 am

    I love these tulips, they have real character, more interesting than the perfect ones I see in shops. But I don’t know anyone who grows them round here, I think they need colder weather?

  • tina May 10, 2009, 6:15 am

    This one’s very sweet. I think when it is full open it does not even look like a tulip at all.

  • Cyd May 10, 2009, 9:31 am

    I have never seen a Lady Jane before. That is a really great flower.

  • lostlandscape (James) May 10, 2009, 11:02 am

    Many common tulips you can “get” with a single glance–not many surprises. But this one draws you in and rewards you with looking at it in detail. The bi-color effect is gentle and delicate–a quality that you capture beautifully in the back-lit photo. Nice tulip, nice post!

  • Pomona Belvedere May 10, 2009, 11:24 am

    Catmint, I just checked your blog but didn’t find what zone you’re in (and I don’t know if you use USDA zones, anyway). If you can tell me, I’ll offer an opinion, but in general I’d say Lady Jane is a good bet in “borderline” cases; it goes warmer than a lot of them do.

    Tina, I agree, this tulip changes personality when it opens or closes. I always feel it’s like having two tulips in one.

    Cyd – I’m glad to have introduced you. I can’t imagine anyone not being happy with Lady Jane in their garden.

  • Pomona Belvedere May 10, 2009, 11:32 am

    James, many thanks for the kudos, I especially appreciate the photo comment because, having seen your site, I know you are up on photos. Glad to have gotten Lady Jane another well-deserved admirer.

  • Jane April 5, 2010, 10:18 am

    Today I saw this tulip for the first time & I’m enthralled! Where can I get the bulbs? Zip code is 28144.

  • Lise May 12, 2010, 9:12 pm

    I bought a Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’ at a plant sale last year. It looks a bit more like the one you’re talking about instead of the ‘real’ one, but I’m not sure. The plant tag mentions something about it being of political importance in Iran but does not why. Any ideas? Try to look it up through search engines, I found your blog entry, so even if I never find out at least I found you!

  • Pomona Belvedere May 13, 2010, 12:09 pm

    Hi Lise, chances are your ‘Lady Jane’ is the same as mine; it’s the most common clusiana-type tulip out there I think. I’m not sure about the political importance in Iran, but I think I did read recently that Iran is gearing up to be a major player in the modern bulb trade – and since they were kind of the originators of the bulb trade, that’s appropriate, but I don’t know what kind of political impact it would have. Economic, for sure.

  • Lise May 13, 2010, 3:20 pm

    Interesting, thank you! I can’t read the part of the tag that says what nursery it was who sold it (it was a big plant sale with lots of vendors.) If I can figure it out I might call them and ask. If I find out I’ll certainly let you know!

  • Pomona Belvedere May 18, 2010, 8:17 am

    Thanks for offering to let me know about the political importance of tulips in Iran – should you uncover the mystery, I’d be very interested.

  • marilyn norvell April 1, 2011, 3:15 am

    Thrilled to find so much info about Lady Jane. Bought a packet of 20 for £3.99 in my local garden centre. It is now April 1st and the buds are just opening on a very windy corner in well-drained clay soil. The bulbs were from Taylors Bulbs, Holbeach, Lincolnshire PE12 7PP, England if anyone cannot find them in USA for next autumn plantings.

  • Anne Guelker April 18, 2013, 12:13 pm

    4/18/13 I think ‘Lady Jane’ is spectacular. I had some in a
    botanical tulips mixture, and wanted to plant a large drift of just
    ‘Lady Jane’ as a result. I have ordered them a total of three times from a total of two suppliers, both of whom guaranteed “true to name.” The first two orders turned out to be Tulip clusiana ‘Tubergens Gem” and the third order turned out to be pink and white, with petals that recurved to the extreme. Please
    advise WHERE in the USA I could possibly order the true red & white ‘Lady Jane.’ Thank you very much.

  • Becky Marley October 18, 2014, 4:22 am

    I just love these tulips and would like to know how I can get some

  • Karra October 24, 2015, 11:42 am

    What a lovely piece!! Mom and Cole!! I can’t wait to see my tliups but I probably won’t until July because it will take that long to melt this stuff! lolHave a great weekend, Diana!!

  • PJ blake November 17, 2016, 11:51 am

    If anyone knows where these are available in Washington state….

  • Anne Guelker November 17, 2016, 5:23 pm

    11/17/16 Since my previous post on 4/18/13, I have found a reliable source for Tulip clusiana ‘Lady Jane.’ The company is called Easy To Grow Bulbs and here is the item on their website. My open and recurve in the warmth of the day, and then close up as the sun goes down. https://www.easytogrowbulbs.com/collections/tulips/products/tulip-clusiana-lady-jane?variant=27297070406

  • Anne Guelker November 17, 2016, 5:28 pm

    11/17/16 Correction to my above comment from just now. The Lady Jane tulips I obtained from Easy to Grow Bulbs do open correctly, and do NOT
    recurve as I stated above. They just open wide and then close as the sun goes down. My 4/18/13 comment referred to some tulips that recurved and those were not Lady Jane. The quest continued until I found Easy To Grow Bulbs and Lady Jane.

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