Far from the snowy, rocky edges of the celestial Tien Shan and Hindu Kush mountains, the wild botanic tulips now find themselves blooming in the most suburban of gardens. Generically referred to as Turkestan tulips, this group includes T. turkestanica as well T. greigii, and T. kaufmannianas, named after von Kaufmann, governor of Tashkent at the time of their discovery in the 1870s 1
Derived from the Persian for turban (dullband), the Ottoman tülbend moved through the Latin languages to become Tulipa and the high breed standard tulip shapes certainly suggest such headwear. The wild alpines however are more bullet-headed and make their way into elegant, elongated buds by February.
My tulips are kaufmanniana ‘Heart’s Delight’, coincidentally registered about the time I was born, and the charming name has both a blood and spiritual thirst connotation, according to Paghat
“a Sufi understanding of tulips having arisen from the blood of martyrs. It signifies Divine Desire, which is that component of our being that inspires in each of us the sacred quest for Divinity, as the only true Heart’s Delight” 2
Low-growing broad, flat leaves form a dense mat which can smother other bulbs growing alongside but Chionodoxa and Scilla manage to spear their way through. Removing one or two larger, floppier leaves helps too. Although ‘Heart’s Delight’ is a kaufmanniana, the attractive red striping on some of the blue-green swards suggests that T. greigii genes are mixed in here. Rising approximately 6-10 inches high, the blooms co-ordinate well with the foliage having carmine red accents, a pale rose interior and just a hint of ruffling akin to Parrot tulips.
When overcast, the flowers remain shy of fully opening but on sunny days light filters through their silhouettes, in striking roseate tones
Mature blooms open out almost flat revealing gorgeous pollen-rich, buttery centres and a signature pointed star profile giving rise to the appellation of Waterlily tulips.
I’ve captured ‘Heart’s Delight’ before it fades as am away soon on a short break and will inevitably miss the rest of these tri-colour tulips from Turkestan
Dedication: To the people of Japan whose many plants grace our own gardens and who have shown us how to create beautiful spaces with a natural and stark simplicity. The quiet dignity and stoicism they have displayed in the face of their country’s utter devastation is an example to us all.
1. Tulip Cultivation – Timeline
2. Hearts Delight tulip kaufmanniana in Paghat’s Garden
©Copyright 2011 Laura Thomas.
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