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Color Combination Failure


My vision of ‘Apricot Beauty’ and ‘Dreaming Maid’  was based on memory. And, as so often, memory was faulty.

I still see Dreaming Maid and Apricot Beauty as totally gorgeous. But I had imagined them in a harmony that was never meant to be.

The last time I grew Dreaming Maid (I know cultivar names are properly in single quotes, but I think they look stupid sprinkled densely through a post, as if the entire top of a pepper shaker had come off and dumped in more spice than was necessary or desirable)  – the last time I grew Dreaming Maid, I hadn’t yet started photographing my plants. I did remember, though, that when someone gave me a branch of lilac flowers, the two harmonized perfectly, shades of the same soft bluish lavender-purple.

I combined the memory of that color with the beautiful peach-and-pink shades of Apricot Beauty (sparked with its occasional flecks of green and rose), and came up with a beautiful dream of tulips, a river with lavender and peach currents.

But while they look fine together – it would be hard to find two pastel tulips that didn’t –  their colors don’t set each other off.

Part of this is due to the changing nature of Dreaming Maid, which starts out rosy-purple.


It isn’t until the very end, when it’s getting crepey, that it evolves into something more like the hazy lavender of my memory. It could be that there’s a soil difference makes a difference in its colors, too. My last batch of Dreaming Maid was planted in the ground; these are in containers. I can’t do the lilac test, because this year, these tulips are way ahead of lilac blooms; lilacs are just leafing out).

Apricot Beauty also changes, although the way it changes seems to vary with the seasons. Sometimes it’s pinker, but that can happen either at the start of its life


or towards the very end. Sometimes it’s a yellower orange, but that can happen either at the end of its life


or the very beginning. The only thing it does consistently is to get paler as it ages.

While Apricot Beauty isn’t actively bad with Dreaming Maid, the two aren’t complementary, to my eyes.


I’m sure this has something to do with the color wheel; if there are any artist readers who can explain this better, I’d appreciate it. When I put my much yellower-orange ‘Apricot Emperor’ tulip next to the gently aging Dreaming Maid, the two set each other off much better than the combination I’d planned.

But Apricot Emperor and Dreaming Maid is not a combination I can expect to see again in my lifetime, since Apricot Emperor is an early Fosteriana tulip. This year, perhaps because of our weird dry warm winter through December and January, the garden bulbs have come out higgledy-piggledy, in any order, crocuses and hyacinths blooming with early and even mid-season tulips, while the Fosterianas, generally next after daffodils, have come out with the usually-much-later single early tulips.

I’m hoping my late orange-and-purple tulip combination, ‘Orange Favorite’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ (with a few ‘Paul Scherer’ thrown in (see what I mean about all those single quotes?)) will turn out better.

As for now? Sometimes the material world surprises us with more than we had expected; other times it disappoints us of our glowing visions. I had the beautiful dream, and now I have beautiful (though mismatched) tulips.

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • gail April 20, 2009, 3:39 pm

    They are both beautiful tulips……but when we have an outcome pictured in our minds and it doesn’t come off right…that is disappointing! I wonder if there is a color that you could add to the mix that would help bridge the difference…I am not a color expert! On the other hand…I just removed all the pink leaning toward lilac as they aged tulips to another spot in the garden! Then I looked at the denuded bed and thought….”Now it looks good!” gail

  • Racquel April 20, 2009, 6:57 pm

    It maybe not what you pictured in your mind’s eye, but it is still lovely. :)

  • tina April 20, 2009, 7:39 pm

    Totally beautiful. I say sometimes nature has things in mind that even we don’t see and what a surprise to have the these tulips bloom at the same time. I totally agree with you-any two pastel tulips look well together and that last picture absolutely shines! The variations in the tulips make it even more so to me.

  • Sylvia (England) April 21, 2009, 1:47 am

    Pomona, I agree with Gail, it needs another colour to show these off but what colour I don’t know. I think I would try bright yellow-green or/and purple foliage in a vase and see how it looks.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  • Jan (ThanksFor2Day) April 21, 2009, 7:50 am

    I just love tulips, no matter what color they are;-) I’m not an expert in color, or gardening, or naming tulips–but when I get any tulips to pop up I’m happy. Usually they are destroyed by voles or squirrels or other critters!! Yours are all gorgeous…but I agree that adding another color would really bring out the best of them both! What color to add, though, I don’t know. I think I’d add a purple shade, but that’s just me;-) Jan

  • Jan (ThanksFor2Day) April 21, 2009, 7:51 am

    Or, maybe White would offset them both?!

  • kerri April 21, 2009, 8:35 am

    The colors are both so beautiful! It’s a shame the combination is disappointing to you, but at least you have plenty of blooms making a wonderful show. I always like yellow tulips with purple/pink, and they should look good with the apricot as well.
    Have fun experimenting!

  • Pomona Belvedere April 21, 2009, 1:10 pm

    It’s interesting to see how differently we all view colors and color combinations; clearly some of you aren’t nearly as bothered as I am by this duo. I like the color-bridging ideas, in the vase and in the garden; I hadn’t thought of that as a possible way to solve the problem. Since mine are in pots, that could make it easy to do next season (assuming I get them to come back).

    Jan, I plant most of my tulips in pots because they do seem to be a special treat for rodents. There’s also a very bitter (but nontoxic) spray called Ropel which you can spray on bulbs before planting (it’s specially designed to be absorbed into whatever it’s sprayed on). And I just read recently online about someone who uses red pepper seeds with the bulbs successfully – I’m sorry I can’t remember the link.

  • cyd April 21, 2009, 1:55 pm

    I’m not a fan of yellow tulips. I think the pastel combination you have is very lovely, it doesn’t quite pop out at you though. What about a tangerine and pink. I planted a Queen of the Night and Fantasy (coral) together and I’m still not sure if I like it. I showed my husband this post and he says white should be added.

  • Daffodil Planter April 21, 2009, 9:05 pm

    Each is a beautiful tulip, and they do look pretty together–but not heart-stoppingly. I would have thought they would be perfect. One reason they are good together is that they are the same saturation of color (is that hue? tint?). Maybe ‘Shirley’, the white with lavender edges, as a companion? Maybe add two more pastels? I’m afraid pure white would stand out rather than tie together. Gee, this is much more fun than planting my own tulips!

  • Town Mouse April 22, 2009, 7:50 am

    Story of my life. I know exactly how the colors are supposed to harmonize and the plants just don’t cooperate. Fortunately, it always looks great anyway… Love those tulips!

  • cheryl April 23, 2009, 12:52 pm

    They look beautiful and they compliment eachother well because the tone is aligned. The compliment of purple is yellow, peach is an analogous color (neighbor) of yellow so they work. It’s funny how our idea can muddle the reality, when in fact the reality is lovely!

  • Anna/Flowergardengirl April 24, 2009, 11:33 am

    I’m seeing blue tones in both of these. I like them together but if your eye is troubled then it needs a fix. I think a deep purple blue would marry them nicely. But to me…they look very good together.

  • Pomona Belvedere April 25, 2009, 11:43 am

    I’m going to try looking at these tulips with new eyes – and I am also tempted to try everyone’s “color blending” solutions next year (I could do it if I use pots) and see how they compare.

  • Trisha Stillwell January 28, 2010, 2:08 pm


  • Pomona Belvedere January 30, 2010, 8:40 pm

    Now THAT is some tulip news! What varieties?

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