Dwarf Tulipa-PBS and Alpine Topic of the Week

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@starpower.net
Mon, 23 Feb 2004 07:37:25 PST
Mary Sue mentioned Tulipa praestans in her recent post. This species (in
particular the cultivar Fusilier) has been a very good doer in my Maryland
garden. It does not spread, and it clumps only slowly, but it persists and
blooms annually without being dug for the summer. I've had the cultivars
Fusilier and Zwanenburg: they are different enough to make both worth having. 

Mark and Mary Sue both mentioned Tulipa batalinii. This persists for awhile
in the garden but eventually disappears if not dug. 

Here's another thought about this plant: Mark mentioned that Rix makes this
a form of T. maximowiczii (the name is spelled both maximowiczii and
maximoviczii in the Rix/Phillips The Bulb Book and in Anna Pavord's The
Tulip - how's that for covering your bases?), whereas others make it a form
of T. linifolia. It occurred to me that both may be right. What I mean is
this: maybe the Tulipa batalinii of horticulture is polyphyletic. TT.
linifolia, maximowiczii, montana, wilsoniana all probably have yellow
variants and telling them apart in cultivation (i.e. without reference to
their populations in nature) would be tricky. 

Mary Sue's comments about the differing behavior of her stocks of T.
batalinii and T. linifolia are intriguing. Spring here is so condensed and
fast that I've never noticed such a pronounced difference, but commercial
T. linifolia is a bit earlier than commercial T. batalinii. Are they
different species or are we just seeing the two ends of a convoluted rope? 

Tulipa bakeri Lilac Wonder was also mentioned. When I was starting out in
tulips, this was not available. What was available was Tulipa saxatilis.
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. Once, some bulbs
planted near the house wall produced one small flowering plant - and it was
gone almost before I got a good look at it. 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? 

Several people have since told me that it does do fairly well in this area.
I'm still a doubter, but I do have some plants now. Has anyone else on the
east coast had long term success with this outside? 

Jim Waddick mentioned Tulipa sprengeri. I grew this from seed; it bloomed
in four years as I recall. Rather than spreading, it then disappeared. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, zone 7, where winter aconites are blooming in
the neighborhood but not yet in this garden; early snowdrops are finally
opening; and foliage of Arum dioscoridis, which looked fine after the big
thaw, went to paper shreds in a subsequent milder freeze.  

More information about the pbs mailing list