Honestly? I didn’t use to like orange. It was my least favorite of colors.
But I’ve reformed. And, like all converts, I’m anxious to spread the good word. If you’re still wondering which tulips to get, allow me to offer a harvest time selection. Orange tulips can really grow on you, as you may be able to tell by my header photo (‘Apricot Beauty’ and ‘Annie Schilder’ are major players in that picture).
I was originally enticed into growing orange tulips because many of them have something extra: scent. And, gradually, I came to enjoy the orangeness for its own sake. I mean, how could you not like the full-moon tulip-bottom of Annie Schilder, above? And how could you not like watching the daily movement of their earlier brick-orange turning into that luminescent glow?
It’s true that I started out with the soft stuff – pale peaches and apricots. ‘Apricot Beauty’ is so popular it would be a cliché – if it didn’t live up to its name so well. Like Annie Schilder, it starts out a deeper shade
and then its color lightens (I can’t say fades) to something so beautiful, so pale, so ethereal, that I used to think calling it orange was a crime.
The diminuitive ‘Apricot Jewel’, a batalinii tulip, was another of my first ventures in orange. I’ve written about these tulips elsewhere, mostly because they’re so beautiful I can’t shut up about them. I’d call them more of a peach than an apricot – they’re much yellower than Apricot Beauty – but I’d rather enjoy them than quibble over the color.
I ventured into the deeper colors of orange – and the deeper scents. To my nose, Apricot Beauty has a faint scent in its earlier stages (scent is a come-on for pollinators, so once the deed is done, it tends to fade). Apricot Jewel has none. I was greedy; I wanted huge shouting fragrance and tulips in once package. A little research showed me that the logical choice was Generaal de Wet.
Generaal de Wet did not disappoint; one day, I woke, and the first thing that impinged itself on my consciousness was not “I want a cup of coffee” but “where is that smell coming from?” It was a penetrating, musky smell that came right in the house and sat down for a visit, and it was coming from the group of Generaal de Wet I’d put right by my front door.
After that, I went on to Annie Schilder (which is more fragrant to my nose than Apricot Beauty; but milder than Generaal de Wet), and I also tried ‘Prinses Irene’, another medium-fragrant tulip (I still haven’t grown any tulip that matches the strength of the Generaal).
I wish I hadn’t grown Prinses Irene so early in my garden-photography career, because these photos give you only some idea of how the amazing colors develop. For a good picture of Prinses Irene, fully developed with its purple streaks, go here.
But these photos do give some idea of its Harlequin-like color development and blazing backlit orange.
Once I’d been bitten by the orange-tulip bug, I kept experimenting. There was T. whitallii, a species tulip only a few inches high.
And ‘Daydream’, a tulip that starts out straw-yellow, gets a flush of orange,
and morphs into a wild pattern of almost-scarlet and yellow.
‘Orange Favorite’ is an heirloom parrot tulip whose complicated buds burst with variations of orange.
As they open, the purple and green and cream streaks start to show, and the flagrant fragrance (to my nose, the next runner-up to Generaal de Wet) unfolds, too.
Dark tulips are great complements for orange tulips, bringing out their colors beautifully in the vase and the garden. Van Engelen has a special combining Prinses Irene with ‘Purple Prince’, a combination I keep meaning to grow, but haven’t yet. (By the way, if you’re interested in knowing which are the best catalogues, in my opinion, you can take a look at the first of my five-part series on bulb catalogues. Oh yes, I take my bulb shopping very seriously indeed. And if you want the best in resplendent beauty, so should you.)
I tend to grow the black-purple tulips, ‘Queen of the Night’ and her look-alike consort, ‘Paul Scherer’. (For more on them, you can check ‘The Black Tulips”.)
But along with the deep richness of dark tulips, I’ve also opened my heart to their brighter, glowing orange cousins.