Learning to love the species
Acuminata, tarda, and turkistanica, 2006 photos
When I first considered tulips, I didn’t want to think about anything other than the large hybrids. My knowledgeable friend told me that the species tulips would perennialize better; I’m not even sure I knew what that meant. But then I watched the hybrids decline, and always hated their too-prominent foliage. Lilies became more rewarding; the stalks declined at the end of the summer rather than the beginning.
Eventually, my interest was piqued by the species, starting with humilis alba coerulea oculata (loved the pure blue, unadulterated by yellow or purple, which features in so many species). Those proved to be short-lived and I moved on to turkistanica, a white/yellow variety that is multi-flowering and has lasted (increasing too) at least five years so far. Others I’ve accumulated include clusiana (Lady Jane and Cynthia), batalini (red and yellow), and praestans fusilier. This year I’ve ordered acuminata (last year’s did not repeat, so we’ll give it another shot), bakari Lilac Wonder, batalini Bronze Charm, and humilis Persian Pearl. They look like wildflowers in the garden and are just as subtle so you need quite a few to create an effect. I’m not quite there yet, though I’ve created a new bed that will accommodate them as well as other perennials. Also, though these can perennialize (as my long-ago friend said), some do quite better than others. Some don't do well at all.
I also love the history of these flowers, most discovered growing wild in the mountains of Greece, Turkey, and locations in Central Asia. I think clusiana was the first to be named by naturalists, in 1803, while many of the others were brought into mainsteam bulb culture later in the nineteenth century. They weren’t part of bulbmania. And they’ve only recently become part of my bulbmania.