April 3, 2010

Had I ever planted tulips

In Pride and Prejudice Lady Catherine DeBourgh, the haughty and fearsome mistress of Rosings manor, issues a statement of breathtaking self assurance.  She is talking about performing on the piano, and, undaunted by the fact that she does not play, simply declares that if she did she would be the best ever.  If only.

"If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient." 

That sums up my relationship to tulips.  Had I ever planted them, I should have had an awe inspiring garden.  Truly.  If only.

I do not have an awe inspiring garden, but I know what mine would look like.  Yes, surely, if I had ever planted tulip bulbs, I know they would have formed the handsomest garden.

Visitors to the Netherlands will realize that the tulip gardens I was destined to have are actually planted in Lisse, Holland at Keukenhof Gardens, where 7 million (7 million!) bulbs are planted every year in the world's largest garden; 80 beautifully sculpted acres of woods, paths, streams and meadows.

Should I have planted them, I would have put my hot red and yellow tulips near a cool stream.

And if I had such a stream I should make sure my staff mowed to the very edge, and put sculptures in the water, and added blue hyacinths to complement my tulips.

If I had ever learnt to mass plants, I should have, with great ease, produced this study in light and contrasts just outside my glass conservatory:

Had I acquired the skills to contour and edge, I should have created swirls of hyacinths and dwarf tulips in multi hues:

I would most definitely have been proficient in the use of pink:

And, finally, had I ever dared to plant tulips en masse, with complete confidence and in color combinations as they do at Keukenhof, I would have had a garden with more than Queen of the Night and White Triumphator in a small row against the garage wall (although I kind of like the restrained black and white palette against the brick.)

Alas, I have no serpentine gardens winding about a stream, and my May 2008 visit to Holland actually dissuaded me from trying to do much with tulips.  I was awed by the acres and acres of stunning masses of bulbs, all in flower (and because it was mid May, the gardens actually were just about done; the garden closed for the season the week after we left).  I was so awed, that I knew I could never recreate what my memory held of our incredible visit to Keukenhof.

So instead, I visit my photos, check out books on Dutch gardens from the library, and content myself with a small row of very subdued tulips along the garage wall.  But if I had ever learnt how to really plant tulips . . . .  I just know I should have been a great proficient.


  1. Ah, yes. Dear Lady Catherine. Had I her means, I should have been a great proficient at tulips as well. As it is, they rarely winter over for the second year so I don't spend the money on them. After looking at your photos, I am sorely tempted to try them again though.

    Christine in Alaska

  2. Had I ever planted tulips, the voles would have eaten them; if not the voles, then the deer.

    I hope that if Lady Catherine DeBourgh had ever taken up gardening, she would have done something different with her hair!

    Those gardens in Hollands are just... beyond amazing. It must have been wonderful to have seen that in person.

  3. Ah yes, I have no doubt you would have been a great proficient with tulips, but given that someone has already done that, you needn't bother yourself. I too have realized I would be a great proficient with topiary, but why expend myself when others already have?

    We have to save our talents and meter them out, sometimes in oblivion. I mean, does anyone spread mulch like I do? I think not!

    btw: I love your combo against the garage wall. Who does garage walls like you? Probably nobody! :-)

    Have a great Easter, Laurrie!

  4. Christine, some people plant tulips as annuals, sort of, they just buy them and plant them each year. We'll see if my garage strip bulbs come up again.

    Sweet bay, the gardens in Holland were truly amazing, just overwhelming!

    Garden Ms. S, I'm sure your topiary would have been great, if you'd ever done any : ) Maybe someday there will be bus tours to see my garage wall.

  5. Laurrie, Love this post - there are certain things we admire other places, but for various reasons can't try at home. And that's okay! I gave up on the tulips - I'm too cheap to sacrifice so many to the rodents living here:)

  6. Laurrie what a fantastic posting and such beautiful displays of tulips and waves of spring colors.Gorgeous. By the way I have watched that movie so many times. LOL!I will watch it several more because I never get tired of it.Much better than the book.

  7. Laurie, your photos are astonishing! What a fantastic trip you had. I have planted tulips, but they always perish sometime during the summer heat and don't return. Or if they do return, they don't flower. Except one. I have a single tulip which has returned to flower each year for over a decade now. Just one.

  8. The garden in our mind's eye is always stunning and perfect. Yours, as is mine, is glorious. And even though I see mine clearly, I am having trouble with my staff seeing it. :)

  9. Cyndy, you're so right, planting tulips here is a lot like setting up a banquet bar for critters!

    Lona, I actually like the A & E Pride & Prejudice movie from 1995 better (with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth).. rent it and see if you agree!

    Deborah, post a photo of your amazing 10 year old returning tulip. It must be incredibly hardy and robust to keep coming back.

    Beckie, you really must get more proficient staff you know.

  10. Too funny. And seriously gorgeous photos. You know, if you got a staff for those tulips, they could also make the coffee so Jim could stay in bed with you and smell the sweet bay tree wafting through the window. Two birds with one stone, etc.

  11. The sorry gardener, wouldn't it be wonderful to have staff? Oh my.


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