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Harvest of Tulips




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.






{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Patty November 10, 2010, 7:27 am

    Nothing like shades of orange to heat things up. Love Generaal de Wet and Apricot Beauty.

  • Chris Maciel November 11, 2010, 6:08 pm

    Thanks for telling us about your favorite orange tulips…..these are all my favorites, too, though I have only grown the Apricot Beauty & Princess Irene; the others are still on my Wish List.

    I gave up buying bulbs this year, not being able to make up my mind what to buy!
    I guess I was overworked…….as tends to happen in the fall, and any decisions I can put off, I do.
    One of the complaints I have about catalogs is that the photographs they use are so brilliant in color, that it misleads…..I end up thinking I don’t want anything that screams, and will not blend with anything else.
    Don’t you sometimes wish they would show tulips in gardens, or pots but not so close-up so that one could get a better idea of the color?
    Good blog.

  • Pomona Belvedere November 12, 2010, 10:19 am

    Patty, glad you found some oranges you liked. I hadn’t thought about it, but it is a time of year we look for heat, isn’t it? So besides harvest squashes and gourds, maybe the orange of fire is another association.

    Chris, it’s still not too late to plant bulbs! depending on what zone you’re in. I have planted in flying snow in December (not that I recommend this) and it worked. But November is actually prime planting time unless your ground is frozen solid, and if you wait until the end of November you can take advantage of some serious sales. I know what you mean about those super-saturated catalogue photos. I don’t know what it is with satuated color these days but I would rather see the real thing. (When I photograph plants, I compare the image with the plant itself, so I know I’m getting it.)

  • Cyd November 14, 2010, 10:19 am

    I love them all! Great pictures!

  • tina November 23, 2010, 1:51 pm

    You’ve convinced me. I tell you I get so excited seeing the oranges and yellows of spring that I’m cheered all the way around. That ‘Daydreams’ is a perfect bloomer.

    I was looking at your cottonwood post. Boy do I love those unique trees. They grow in Germany and this was my first introduction to them. I had no idea what was making all the fuzz in the air but have been smitten ever since.

  • Country Mouse November 23, 2010, 2:55 pm

    Like you I’m taking a dive into the orange color range in our fenced off garden, and going with some other hot colors too. It’s a reach! I love the amazing blooms – intense! Unfortunately tulips are hard for me to grow here – between the deer and the gophers, not much left!

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