When is a species tulip not a species tulip? When it’s a batalinii.
Actually, there are quite a few “species” tulips living under false names out there, but it’s not my job to blow their cover. Only to report that Apricot Jewel is a cross between the wild Tulipa batalinii and another species tulip, Tulipa maximoviczii, made by W.R. Dykes in the late 1800s. It made its way to what was then and now is again St. Petersburg (there’s an old, long-traveled route between the middle east and Russia that goes back to Genghis Khan). A Dr. Batalin, director of the botanic gardens there, sent it to Kew. I’m not sure if it acquired his name there or later, but this middle eastern tulip now has a Russian name.
I first saw Tulipa batalinii in a pose similar to the one at the top of the post. It was on the cover of a garden book, and I knew that I wanted it.
While I’m generally in favor of trying pure species first, so I get a feel for where a tulip comes from, I didn’t know enough to work this out when I first got Apricot Jewel. And I’m glad. What I got was a graceful, beautiful flower, with narrow leaves and a flower small enough to fit into the woodland scene without sticking out, but large enough to show up against that woodland background.
Apricot Jewel starts out a clear orange-yellow, then gradually turns to a pale peach-orange. As it ages, you’ll sometimes see feathery red picotee edgings
or red streaks in the petals.
Sometimes it bypasses the flashy colors, and fades into a pale, green-accented peach. Like all tulips, Apricot Jewel is variable, according to the weather, soil, and its own fine whims.
It’s a long-lasting tulip; Apricot Jewel can go a month if the weather’s right. And it will turn up for you every year, unless you do something drastic. Unlike most of my tulips, I planted it in containers that I water in summer. Not much; its cyclamen and alpine strawberry and thyme compaions don’t take much watering, but they do take some. Apricot Jewel does fine with this, an exception to my Don’t Water Tulips in Summer rule (they still need drainage, though).
Occasionally I buy more Apricot Jewel, even though the ones I got over ten years ago are still with me. (I’m not sure if they’re multiplying; I don’t count them.) And occasionally I try its sisters, which make different play of the colors in Apricot Jewel, appearing in yellows and rusty-rosy reds. So far, I like Apricot Jewel best.
Anna Pavord, The Tulip, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1999