Dwarf Tulipa - catching up

Antennaria@aol.com Antennaria@aol.com
Tue, 24 Feb 2004 20:40:15 PST
Lots of good comments on dwarf Tulipa.  Let me respond to a few items:

There were two AlpenPix postings of Tulipa species, Tulipa undulatifolia 
photographed by Graham Nicholls, and Tulipa neustreuvae photographed by Jon Evans. 
Both are stunning dwarf bulbs, but I'm particularly smitten with T. 
undulatifolia... not only is it among the most beautiful dwarf tulips I've seen, but it 
is among the most stunning dwarf bulbs of all time.

Tulipa undulatifolia
Tulipa neustreuvae

The first species is available from Hoog and Dix wholesale, but maybe we 
could convince Paige Woodward or Russell Stafford to import this beauty through 
their nursery channels if there were enough interested buyers of a few bulbs 

Mary Sue Ittner wrote:
>Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is another very 
>satisfactory Tulipa. I have planted this in the 
>ground hoping it might come back and occasionally 
>see it returning, but it does much better for me in 
>containers using my usual method. Funny, but I've 
>never found its foliage "chubby." I'll have to look 
>at it this year more closely.

I do think the foliage is rather chubby, and proportionally too large for the 
rather small cup-shaped blooms.  Check out my photo page on T. polychroma, a 
most delightful miniature white-flowered species, where it turns out that 
Tulipa bakeri bulbs were intermingled in the Holland bulb bins.  The narrow gray 
foliage is T. polychroma, the wide, green foliage just emerging is bakeri 
'Lilac Wonder'.  The foliage will get much bigger and fatter than what you see in 
the images of early foliar emergence.
...and here's the link to T. bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' bulbs growing out amongst 
T. tarda bulbs:

Jim McKenney <jimmckenney@starpower.net> wrote several paragraphs:
>Tulipa bakeri Lilac Wonder was also mentioned. Tulipa 
>saxatilis puts up foliage in the fall; the foliage is 
>severely damaged in a typical winter. As a result, I 
>grew this species (by replacing it frequently) for years
>without ever seeing it flower. When Lilac Wonder 
>became available, I was dubious: wasn't it just another 
>saxatilis variant under a new name? Was there any 
>reason to think that it might do better here? 

The two species are regarded as quite distinct, albeit the flowers have 
similar coloration reported as paler pink in T. saxatilis. Considering T. bakeri 
comes from Crete, it is surprising to me that it is ironclad hardy in New 
England.  The foliage does not sprout in the autumn like saxatilis, but waits until 
spring.  Tulipa saxatilis is said to be stoloniferous.  Of the two species, 
I've only grown T. bakeri, and it certainly shows no tendency to be 

>I couldn't agree less about your comments about 
>what rock gardeners prefer. I'm a rock gardener -of 
>sorts, but not the sort who measures everything and
>tosses anything over eight inches high. But then, I 
>don't have a real rock garden. In my experience, 
>most rock gardeners don't.

You must not take my comments too seriously, as they were purposely 
stereotyped to emphasize a point.  My comments are based on some level of classic "rock 
gardening doctrine", personal observation over the years in the New England 
area, and a bit of mockery of the rock gardening "norms".  I'm the first to 
admit that I like displays of pansies, petunias, huge-headed hydrangeas, giant 
hibiscus, snapdragons and zinnias, overbred iris and dahlias, lilacs, and a host 
of shrubs and trees. 

>The rock gardeners you seem to be referring to 
>are the space-starved modern rock gardeners who 
>set aside a few square yards of rock heap and 
>within that area manage to see glacial till, a 
>moraine, assorted chasms and crevices

I didn't realized I had implied so much!  To your assertion, I believe quite 
the opposite.  Some of the best rock gardens in eastern USA that I've visited, 
particularly in Connecticut, and western and coastal Massachusetts, among 
other locations, had rather luxuriously expansive sites and elegant gardens, not 
even close to being a "rock heap".

>As for plants, nothing much bigger than 
>a Draba need apply. And thus the need 
>for tiny tulips and crocus. And, as far as
>I'm concerned, the result is proportionally 
>reduced enjoyment. 

"Proportionally reduced enjoyment"?... based on the need for tiny tulip and 
crocus?  I don't see the correlation whatsoever, and find such an idea... let's 
say...novel.  It has more to do with the overall character of a plant, its 
proportional balance, the disposition of leaves and flowers, and nuance of color 
and scent; these things offering visual attraction and fidelity, not 
necessarily based on size or height at all.  I adore miniature narcissus... most 
people seem to, and why not, they are darling replicas of their larger kin.  But I 
have my share of King Alfreds, as many people do, for the sheer exuberance of 
spring splendor and color they offer.  You're right to point out, most rock 
gardeners are not strickly adherent to the so-called 12" rule  (I haven't heard 
of the 8" rule you mentioned, nor the draba-height rule implying 2" max. 
height or so), and they tend to grow what they like.

>So let's not bash the big tulips and crocus. 
>And please! We all don't prefer the so-called 
>species - certainly not to the exclusion of the
>"inflated Dutch crocus". "Absolutely not"?

I don't think I bashed big tulips, other than trying to encapsulate a few 
predispositions regarding them, and the perceived "norms" that ensue, whether 
these be right or wrong.  My mom's Red and Orange Emperor tulips that I plant for 
her are indeed splendid when they bloom, and she's proud that her garden 
stands out from the neighbors. Regarding Dutch crocus, it is my personal opinion 
they look big and inflated, and lack the finesse and charm of the smaller 
sorts.  Are Dutch crocus pretty... sure they are, but I'd pass them up gladly, to 
have a mature clump of C. chrysanthus 'Prins Claus', with pristine flowers so 
tightly packed they can hardly open and the floral scent worth lying in the mud 
for, to satiate the senses.

Jane McGary mentions a couple species that catch my attention; "T. 
orithyoides (tiny, white-and-greenish, in flower now) from Central Asia; and T. 
sharonensis from Israel, thanks to a NARGS member there".  Where might we find T. 
orithyoides?  It sounds wonderful.  Where is the species from?  I guess I must 
scour the seed lists to find the more unusual sorts.

Thanks Iza Goroff for the reminder about the NARGS Plant of the Month, with 4 
Tulipa species represented.  I particularly like the Tulipa batalinii 'Yellow 
Jewel' photo, the soft yellow flowers so pert and engaging.

Thanks to others for sharing their favorite dwarf tulips.  If I had to draw a 
conclusion from the experience of others, it would be that Tulipa species are 
quite satisfactory in colder climates, and to a slightly lesser extent in 
warmer climates, but in all cases, they seem desirable and rewarding to those who 
grow them.

On a closing note for this message, I must quote a line from Paige Woodward's 
tulipa page on her Pacific Rim Native Plant Nursery.  
In her offerings of Tulipa species (accompanied by photos), she says "Those 
we offer are primal and voluptuous. Grow them in swathes."  That says it all 
somehow!  I must try the primal T. carinata (distinctive flame red stars), 
ingens (huge red waxy flowers), kaufmanniana 'Ak-Tash' (upfacing cream yellow 
flowers), and ostrowskiana (hot red-orange blooms on short stems).

Mark McDonough Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States 
antennaria@aol.com "New England" USDA Zone 5
>> web site under construction - http://www.plantbuzz.com/ <

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