November can be one of the dreariest months of the year with little happening in the garden besides raking leaves and sweeping puddles. Only the very hardiest of gardeners will be doing any actual work, identified by their summer shorts in a missed-placed, yet stout-hearted defiance of the on-coming cold weather.

Other than trying to bring a little color into the garden by making up winter tubs and baskets, there isn't much that will tempt you to drive several miles in the pouring rain to reach your local garden center. However this is a critical time for preparing your garden for the following year. In fact some of the brightest and most colorful plants that you can ever get are available now, and the sooner you get them into the ground the better.

We are talking about spring flowering bulbs and in particular that most precious of all families, the tulips. Along with clogs, and an over indulgence for soft drugs, tulips are well known for their association with Dutch culture. In fact, Holland is the world’s main producer of commercially sold tulip bulbs, producing as many as 3 billion plants every year. With that in mind you may be surprised to learn that tulips are not a native of Holland and are in fact indigenous to the mountainous regions of Northern Africa and Southern Europe. It’s because of this contrasting habitat that tulips have developed the need for a period of cold dormancy and why, in northern Europe, they must be planted before our winter season starts otherwise they cannot initiate flowering.

Over a thousand years ago, Turkish entrepreneurs had begun cultivating wild tulips that grew in the Persian region, and traded them throughout the Ottoman Empire. During this that time the Great Mogul Baber counted thirty-three different species in the area of Kabul alone. So how is it then, that although originating from a hot, dry mountainous environment, tulips manage to thrive in Holland. At a first glance the Dutch landscape seems at odds with such an environmentally specific crop with is almost uniquely characteristic landscape. It’s at, and in many areas below, sea level, it’s extremely flat and the winters are particularly wet. The reason why they do so well in Holland is because of their land reclamation policy. By introducing an effective drainage system based on the Archimedes screw and powered by windmills, they inadvertently created a soil that kept the bulbs in an almost perfect and constant environment.
Between 1634 and 1637, the early enthusiasm for the new flowers triggered a speculative frenzy now known as the tulip mania and tulip bulbs were then considered a form of currency just like the California Gold Rush. People abandoned jobs, businesses, wives, homes and lovers, all just to become tulip growers. Records show one Dutchman who paid thirty-six bushels of wheat, seventy-two of rice, four oxen, twelve sheep, eight pigs, two barrels of wine and four of beer, two tons of butter, a thousands pounds of cheese, a bed, clothes, and a silver cup, just for a single Viceroy bulb! Perhaps the best story is this - after paying for a bulb with its weight in gold, the new owner heard that a cobbler possessed the same variety. He bought the cobbler’s second bulb and crushed it, to increase the value of his first bulb.

Tulip 'Princess Irene' has single reddish/orange flowers that are lighter at the tips of its rounded petals.
Tulip 'Yokohama' has a long lasting, sunshine-yellow flower, with single blooms and slightly pointed petals. It is also very weather resistant.
Tulip 'Oranje Nassau': is a tall open orange flower with a soft, wavy edge.
Tulip 'Purissima' is an silky-white, smooth-cupped flower.
Tulipa 'Rem's Sensation': This is an exceptional 'Triumph' tulip. It's a strong, sturdy variety with thick, substantial petals that glisten white with purple/red flames.
Tulipa 'Carnaval de Nice' is a stunning double peony tulip, with a large globe of petals, white with wide ragged raspberry-red streaks or flames. Introduced in 1953, it supersedes similar cultivars form a century older which were troubled with weak stems. Although strengthened, Carnival de Nice is still at risk of being knocked over by bad weather.
Tulip 'White Dream' is a pure ice-white bloom, cup-shaped, single-flowering variety.
Tulip 'Don Quixote' has a large single, cyclamen-pink flower with grey-green leaves. The flowers are very long-lasting sat high on 16 -18cm stems making them suitable for cut flowers.
Tulip 'Maytime' is a dusky deep-purple, lily- shaped flower with elegant, tapered petals that open out slightly. It has a slightly paler edge to it which helps to highlight the petals edge. It's a particularly sturdy variety, despite its delicate appearance and can be planted out for permanent, formal displays, or in containers.
Tulip 'Dreamland' is a creamy white flower leading to a flamed fuschia-pink at the top of the petals.
Tulip wilsoniana is a beautiful vermilion red alpine tulip perfectly suited for dry sunny beds.
Tulip 'Queen of the Night' has dark maroon coloring which brings out the satiny sheen of the petals; this is one of the darkest tulip varieties which can help create a truly dramatic display.
Tulipa sprengeri - the wild tulip. This has delicate scarlet flowers followed by pale, gherkin-like seed pods.

For related article click onto the following links:
How to Grow Species Tulips from Seed
OLD DUTCH TULIPS - Tulip 'Absalom'
SPECIES TULIP - Tulipa Wilsoniana
Top Tips for Tulip Care
RHS Tulips
Tulipa 'Rems Sensation'

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