A Few Tulipy Highlights on a Rare Sunny Spring Day

A couple of years back my mother-in-law gave me the best present ever – a gift voucher from a bulb supplier.  In this case, Marcus Harvey’s Hillview Rare Plants.

I didn’t ordering anything specific from Marcus’s incredible catalogue (which was then in limbo anyway).  I told him I wanted species tulips, and that I didn’t care which.  I didn’t have enough of any to worry about doubling up.

I think that this may be their third season, and while I’ve been topping up on Sicilian sunshine, they’ve been wallowing in the gloom of the wettest spring I can remember. Today the sun is out, and the tulips look like they’re ODing on it.

Those at their best today are:


Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’.  This is a lemony coloured form of the otherwise white-based species.  Come to think of it, Marcus sent me the straight species, which flowered a few weeks ago.  This came from Lambley. Very lovely indeed.


Tulipa vvedenskyii.  At least I think that’s what it is.  The birds wreaked havoc with a few of the labels.  Its colour is so outrageous that my camera goes into chromatic-meltdown, and can’t distinguish one flower from another.


Tulipa hageri ‘Splendens’. This is much darker than it looks here, as I’ve deliberately taken it with penetrating light.  In actuality its a paprika-chocolate, more of a flavour than a colour!


The unappealing named Tulipa battalinii ‘Honky Tonk’.  It’s only opening today, but look at all those buds! My preference is more towards the apricoty forms of this species (yet to come into bloom), but I’m not one bit fussy.  You find yourself describing it as a soft lemon, but there’s something distinctly acidic or sherbety about it that prevents it from being insipid.


The tall yellow hybrid named ‘Big Smile’ (not from Marcus).  By its nature, and its very name, it makes you do just that.

And at the very top, Tulipa saxatilis.  This is curious in a couple of ways.  Firstly, its flower stem branches, and a single bulb in my clump has produced 10 flowers.  It’s probably capable of more, as I don’t spoil these bulbs with perfect treatment.  Secondly, it spreads by stolons, and at ground level you can see these ‘knuckles’ emerging from the soil then diving back down into it.  The same happened last year, but it doesn’t seem to have led to much increase. No matter. There’s a decent number of flowers anyway.


  1. The wettest spring anyone can remember barring centenarians in many parts. A new September record for the Ballarat region surpassing the 1916 record.

    1. Really? didn’t realise it was that long since it was this wet in Spring. I was confident I’d never seen anything like it over my time in Woodend (19 years), but not further back than that.

  2. Yes, wet in the west as well, they say best WA wildflower season ever, I envy you your tulip, they don’t grow well her but… I am coming for the design fest as usual. Are you off to NZ at that time Micheal (Ross tours)? Or was it cancelled. I want to go for a similar trip next year and do the Auckland DF 2017 but it looks it is off the calendar :((((

    1. Yes, off to NZ in a few weeks Barbara. It’s always such a buzz…

  3. I do so love Tulips Michael (may be that for me they represent the kind of Spring which growing up in Queensland one never encountered). I am not game to grow in the ground so mine are in pots and putting on quite a show at the moment I can say. Some are onto their fourth year and doing fine. Thanks for those inspiring images from your garden and good on your M-I-L for such a thoughtful gift.

    1. So where are you Peter?

  4. Beautiful. Our tulips were beautifully on display today in the sunshine too.

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