Tulip envy

Our climate is great for tomatoes, lavender, subtropical bamboos and of most cacti and succulents, but it sucks for those beloved harbingers of spring that once almost brought the Dutch economy to its knees: tulips. To get tulips to bloom at all, we need to chill them in the fridge or buy pre-chilled bulbs. Forget about them coming back the next year—our summer heat does them in.

So it is with great envy that I look at photos of tulip fields in Holland or Washington State.

Tulip field in the Netherlands
Photo source: Wikipedia
Tulip field in the Skagit Valley, Washington State
Photo source: Wikipedia

Would I grow masses of tulips if I lived in the right climate? I’m not sure. But because I can’t, I want to.

If you’re wondering why I’m talking about tulips when they’re done blooming in most places, it’s because today I received a catalog from Breck’s in the mail. Founded in 1818, Breck’s is the largest U.S. importer of Dutch bulbs. I don’t know how I got on their mailing list, let alone became one of their “most valued customers,” but I think it’s downright cruel for them to send me a catalog full of plants that won’t survive here for more than a season.

Right now they’re having a 75% off sale. That’s great, but what would I do with a gross of tulip bulbs if I bought them now? I suppose I could buy another fridge and chill them until planting time come fall. But that may be too much chilling even for these chill-loving bulbs.

I was tempted to not even look inside the catalog, but my resolve wasn’t strong enough. So without further ado, here are some of the beauties I will never be able to call mine unless I move to a place with unpleasantly cold winters.

(All photos © Breck’s and borrowed from their web site. I hope they don’t mind.)

There are the classic beauties…

Vanilla Cream Tulip—could it get any more elegant?
Playgirl Tulip—Playgirl??? Is there a Playboy variety, too?
Red Dynasty Tulip—classic red, always in fashion
Life’s a Cabernet Tulip—who wouldn’t want a tulip named after one of the greatest wine grapes?
Queen of Night Tulip—who doesn’t like a black flower?

Then there are ones appealing to the flower power crowd…

Tattoo Tulip—hey, everybody and their dog is getting tats these days!
Snow Fire Tulip—more like Little Red Riding Hood encountering the Big Bad Wolf in the midst of winter
Variegated Firespray Tulip—who knew there were tulips with variegated foliage?
Double Red Riding Hood Tulip—
red-striped leaves!
Sundowner Tulip—don’t stare at it too long, it might cause a seizure

Then there are the ones that look like something else…

Danceline® Tulip—a tulip that looks like a camellia, perfect for people who don’t like tulips!
Belicia Tulip—a tulip that looks like a carnation!
Ice Cream Tulip—a tulip that looks like, well, a cone of ice cream, probably coconut

And finally there are the freaky ones that appeal to people who embrace the ugly…

Green Wave Parrot Tulip—looks like a green-and-pink apple fritter, but hey, it’s a tulip!
Parrot King Tulip—or cabbage crossed with nasturtium?
Blumex Tulip—a crumpled-up tie-dye t-shirt?

Breck’s also has bulbs I could probably grow, like gladioli and irises, but they just don’t have the exotic allure of tulips.

Funny, isn’t it, how gardeners always want what they can’t have?

P.S. On closer inspection, it appears that this a pre-sale offer, i.e. you order and pay now and receive the bulbs in the fall. No extra fridge required for bulb storage.


  1. Some nice ones here -- I'm strangely attracted to the Blumex. Tulips are nice for a week or two, but then they're just foliage (until they're not).

    I'm still glad I planted some last year finally, but I've never lamented not having them. I'll trade you the ability to grow tulips for the ability to grow the big clumping bamboos! :-)

    1. I guess you're right about tulips being short-lived. And if I could grow them with ease I might not bother. But I do love expanses of flowering tulips.

      On the other hand, I get to enjoy my clumping bamboo all year long so it's not so bad, all things considered.

  2. I have to have my tulips every year. I plant them so you don't see the leaves too much because the surrounding perennials hide them.

    I am not a huge succulent fan, but I DO love that yucca rostrata - ever since you first posted about it. And what's the lowest zone it will handle? I thought that one was more cold tolerant.

    1. Reports say Yucca rostrata is hardy to zone 5 so you should be able to grow it in Massachusetts. It's a great plant all around but very slow-growing.

  3. Nice parrots and Blumex, expecially the Blumex. They'd go well in my garden, err, fridge. I have had only one tulip blossom for me ever. Still hoping the others I planted with it will come out soon.

  4. I like your comment about gardeners always wanting plants that they can't have, how true! A common plant to one is an exotic to the other. Some tulips are just starting to bloom here. There are tour groups organised here for the sole purpose of seeing the fantastic tulip displays in Holland, and Floriade Hort Expo is on this year too which is the biggest in the world and only held every 10 years.

  5. Wow those tulips are so beautiful! Not much of a bulb girl but I love to look at everyone else's!


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