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