Tulips For Mother’s Day

2015 tulips  3The tulips at the shop have been evolving over the past 3 weeks, when the first of them came into bloom.  How appropriate that they are usually about in full bloom on Mother’s Day.  My Mom would have loved it, and photographed them over and over again. I came in early today, so I could take my own pictures. I always plant a mix in front of the shop, as I plant lots of them. A minimum of three colors will make a good basic mix.

the 2015 tulips (4)There are other characteristics besides color that make up a good mix.  A mix of heights rewards the eye with flowers up, down, and in the midsection.  All the same type or class of tulips puts all the flowers at the same height. No matter whether you plant 20 or 200 tulips, there will be a horizontal band of green at the bottom, and a horizontal band of color at the top.  Tulips have big, splashy flowers, but I like to plant them close together. Choosing tulips of different heights means the individual flowers will read.

the 2015 tulips (6)Different classes of tulips bloom at different times. Creating a good mix of times is not quite as simple as planting an early, a mid season, and a late tulip.  A mix whose early tulip is finished before the mid season tulip comes on means the whole group will never be in full color for that one moment of tulip glory. For that reason, I usually include smaller numbers of a 4th and 5th-and maybe even a 6th tulip.    the 2015 tulip mix (6)Different types of tulips have different shapes-of course.  The classic mid season Darwin hybrid tulip flower is tall, and globular.  Single late tulips are very large, and more rounded in shape than the Darwins.  Lily flowered tulips have a lily shape-of course.  A variety of shapes keeps the mix interesting.

the 2015 tulips (1)Of course color plays a big part of the mix. Strongly contrasting colors makes for a very lively mix. Bright orange, bright yellow and white is a striking and dramatic mix.  That drama can be left as is, or tempered with pale yellow and peach. Pale violet or lavender added to this mix tones down the heat in a visually interesting way. Red would heat up the mix.  Leave out the white, the mix will smoulder. 1 part white to 1 part red yellow and orange will be sunny in a very springlike way.

the 2015 tulips (2)

Colors that are closely related make for a harmonious mix. Red and pink is a natural combination, as pink is red mixed with white.  In this scheme, there is a near warm white, a white flamed pink and red, a pale pink, a single late rose pink/red, and a medium pink.

the 2015 tulips (12)The varieties, from left to right:  World Expression, Silver Stream, Renown and Mariette, with Pink Impression at the bottom.

the 2015 tulips (13)There can be great color variations within an individual tulip.  Pink impression is a pale pink with blue overtones.  The midrib of each petal is darker than the body, and the edges of the petals are lighter than the body.

the 2015 tulips (15)World Expression and Silver Stream have the same two colors, though the color distribution is very different.  I think each of these tulips is all the better for its respective companion.

the 2015 tulips (11)The blooming of the tulips from start to finish is about 5, maybe 6 weeks.  I thoroughly enjoy that process, from the time the leaves emerge from the ground, until the last of the petals mature and fall. The flowers themselves are extraordinary.  I would always plant tulips for my Mom for Mother’s Day.  I would do my best to plant when she was not there, so she would not know what colors or where I would plant. I also schemed to be sure that the tulips were at their perfect best on Mother’s Day.  Though I rarely met that goal perfectly, the process of the selection, the planting, the anticipation of spring, and the blooming was a process we both enjoyed. I so appreciate that every time I see tulips in bloom, I think of her.


  1. debra phillips says

    stunning deborah, wish i was nearby to see in person.
    happy mothers day to

  2. Wow! They are incredible. So appreciate the sharing, as usual you are a great inspiration.

  3. Swanton Ohio: Absolutely a Beautiful display Deborah. When I planted my tulips in early November I couldn’t wait for spring to see my work but it was a total disappointment maybe 60 percent bloom 40 percent just green leaf my thought was I planted to close. What did I do wrong?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Kal, things go wrong in the garden for numerous, and often conflicting reasons.I have no idea what happened to your tulips. Ask a local nursery to help with this. I hope your tulips next year will be better! all the best, Deborah

  4. Jeanette says

    I really enjoyed seeing your display. I miss tulips as I have deer roaming where I live. My only reward is to buy a pot now and then. Thanks for sharing. My mom loved tulips also…..

  5. Deborah – And then what do you do when they are past blooming, and it is six weeks wait to allow the foliage to feed the bulb? Do you leave it? Or do you just replant every year? It seems to be an important space for your business.
    Inspiring, yes – as always! Thank you! Best – Christine

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Christine, we replant the tulips every year. all the best, Deborah

      • HMMM…Replant every year? Is that to ensure that you get a high % of blooms every year from a fresh batch of healthy bulbs or because you just want a different arrangement each year? I’ve just recently started planting small groupings of tulips in the fall. I thought they would multiply and the grouping would get bigger each year but that hasn’t been the case. The groupings peter out after year 2. Is this fairly standard?

        • Deborah Silver says

          Dear Nella, after tulips bloom, the mother bulb breaks down, or divides into smaller bulbs. I do not consider them “perennial”. The flowers get smaller and smaller, and eventually disappear. Daffodil bulbs multiply, and make bigger clumps, until they are too congested and require division. Best, Deborah

  6. susan boersma says

    We left our homes in Holland, MI, on Thursday in the middle of “Tulip Time” to drive across the state with our friends, the Birds, to attend the Detroit Garden Works open house. It was worth every mile! What we discovered was a feast for the eyes. The tulip display was an unexpected bonus, a spectacular demonstration of your principles for planting tulip beds. Our only disappointment is that we didn’t get to meet you! Thank you for the lovely treats and beverages which, together with our memories, sustained us on the long journey home.

  7. Beautiful post.

    When I see tulips now, I’ll think of your tribute to your mother.

    Love not only the way you conjure images with words, but also how you plant wonderful ideas of inspiration in your readers’ minds.


  8. Cara Kazanowski says

    I’m lucky to see this beautiful field of tulips each spring!

  9. Jo Ann Marsh says

    Saw you photographing them today as we left. My sister in law, niece, and I took photos there this past Thursday ourselves, looking knee deep In your beautiful tulips. They were my husband’s favorite flowers. We had large simple bowls of them at his funeral last week. I was bringing him tulips this year as a sign of spring and renewal; he enjoyed them so much, even past full blown…I will always think of him whenever I see them. Thanks for loving tulips too.

  10. Stunningly beautiful display! I would add, also, that planting tulips en masse is always a great idea. Don’t settle for a couple, plant hundreds! Great page of inspiration today.

  11. How far apart do you plant your tulips?

  12. Hadley Peterson says

    This is so beautiful. I am wondering what is the high hedge in the back? It makes such a nice backdrop.

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