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History of the Garden Tulip

The Phrase ‘cottage Tulip’ inspires a charming typically English picture, old world thatched cottage, with groups of gay tulips beside the flagged path. It is therefore surprising to that the tulip now so popular and widely grown in this country and with one type baring such a homely name, should not have made it appearance here until the alter part of Elizabeth I reign in 1577.

Before that time it history and travels to Europe are rather discounted and contradictory, although many references appear in Eastern literature and paintings throughout the ages.

By 1629 when the popularity of the tulip was fairly we established, John Parkinson listed one hundred and forty varieties, while later their popularity was increased even more by the gardener to Charles I grew many in the royal gardens, thus bringing them to the notice many fashionable people.

It was Parkinson also who stated that tulips should be planted with-‘one colour answering and setting of another’ that the place where they stand may resemble a peace of curious needle work.’

How true this can still be observed today by comparing the patchwork of planned groups where one variety enhances and shows off the magnificent habit and bold colouring of the next, while indiscriminate planting may bring together two or more varieties which unfortunately all too often cancel out each other beauty.

At no time since they first arrived in Europe have tulips been allowed to grow and break naturally; as far back as the late sixteenth century when people eminent botanists down to the possessor of the most humble back-yard tried to achieve something outstandingly new, and so where caught up I the fabulous “Tulipomania” which took over Europe by storm. Whole estates where lost and won sometimes for no more than the rumour of a freak or a successful cross.


It is stated as recently as 1836 the sum of 650£, was paid for a single new bulb, although by this date the original blind speculation sometimes with goods as well as money had become more rational.

“The Parrots” with their curious elements make their debut in 1690, but only in recent years has their full worth in floristry been fully appreciated. It is in connection with this art, that those recent quaint introductions the “green” varieties have their chief value.

The stately “Darwin” named after that eminent botanist, and much prized for its excellent quality and noble habit, was only placed on the general market in the last few years of Queen Victoria’s Reign. Since that time many varieties have appeared and disappeared, some lasting only a few seasons, while others like in “Baronne de la Tonnaye” have stayed with us for many years retaining their magnificent strength and substance throughout.

During the past years a gradual but definite change has been brought about by the addition of new varieties and new hybrids each season, and the discarding of any with poor stamina and of those surpassed by a new introduction.

Nowadays we can have a flowering season from March until the end of May using all the species and varieties at our disposal from the sturdy but dainty “Kaufmanniana” to the dignified ‘breeders’.

In the following pages you will find our selection from 1960, containing over 350 varieties under the many classifications known today.


July 1st, 1959

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A Little Garden Maintenance This Spring

After a long Winter, we look forward to our Spring bulbs emerging from the cold ground. Whether they are the lovely nodding Daffodils, the cheery little Crocus or the majestic Tulips, they always seem to put a smile on our face.

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Jumbo Agapanthus

Agapanthus are native to South Africa and were first introduced into Europe during the late seventeenth century. In those early days they were mainly grown in containers in the large conservatories of stately homes and their value as a garden plant was not generally recognised.

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A Magnificent Display For the Summer Patio

At present, we are still in the grips of Winter but the days are starting to get longer and Summer will be upon us before we know it. Although it can be a challenge to find something different to plant in our Summer Patio Containers each year, the sweetly scented Phlox paniculata are ideal for this purpose.

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Daffodils For Showing

Ronald Blom was a member of the R.H.S. Tulip and Daffodil Committee for nearly 30 years and a regular judge of the Spring daffodil shows. Included below are his pointers for success at the shows

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Heirloom Tulips at Chelsea

This year we will be featuring some of the broken or reflected tulips, much prized from the 15th through the 19th centuries. These are not to be confused with the cheap imitation Rembrandts that you see today.

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Tulip Choice

Having grown up with tulips all my life they are for me and I suspect most gardeners, the favourite spring flowering bulb.

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Plant of the week

12th February 2015

Plant of the Week - Canna Crete 

Cannas create a spectacular show in the Summer garden. The bold plants with their vibrant coloured flowers are ideal for planting in large containers or dotted about in mixed borders. Crete is one of a new breed of Cannas which is more floriferous and has a more compact habit of growth than the traditional varieties. Its fiery blood red flowers and shiny deep green leaves will delight you for many months. 

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Agapanthus Black Buddhist

Agapanthus Black Buddhist

Plant of the week for 26 January 2009 - Agapanthus are amongst our most popular plants because they create large umbels of showy colourful flowers which will create a focal point anywhere in the garden. 

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