Tulipa ‘Flaming Purissima’

I’m an idea thief. I’ve admitted it before and I’ll confess it again — if someone dangles a great idea in my face, it’s going to get snatched. So, when Jacqueline van der Kloet (the Dutch Bulb Sorceress par excellence) mentioned that Tulipa ‘Flaming Purissima’ perennializes reliably, I was thumbing through my catalogs before we hung up the phone.

The only thing standing between you and a torrid affair with tulips is the fact that most tulips act like annuals, right? What you don’t need is a plant that performs briefly in spring and then has to replanted the following autumn. Even if you have the budget (and tulips really aren’t wallet-busters), is it worth the backache? So, if you had a wish — wouldn’t a perennial tulip top the list (after world peace and an end to hunger, of course)? I mean = REALLY perennial. Not just “sorta” perennial. Well, your pleas have been answered.

I’m not talking about one of those itty bitty species tulips here. ‘Flaming Purissima’ is full-figured. Plus, it debuts early. Really early. Overlapping daffodils, synchronizing with Magnolia stellata and all those outrageous blue pulmonarias. It might win the “first tulip on the block” designation (not that anyone’s competing…).

And don’t you love a tulip that has unpredictably colored petals? The hallmark of ‘Flaming Purissima’ is that it keeps you guessing. Every flower is different. Most are white with red flares and flames streaking the petals. Others are almost pure vibrant cherry red with white “nerves”. Many are somewhere between those two variables. So a stand of ‘Flaming Purissima’ (and the only way to plant tulips is in batches of 50 — we’re in agreement on that rule, correct?) will have diversity, intrigue, and a radiant glow.

Mine grow in full sun on a dry bank that is as close as anyone in New England can come to the native conditions of the Fosteriana tulips that are in ‘Flaming Purissima’s lineage. Since mine grow close to the street where they can’t really look shabby (got to keep up appearances), I clip off the spent flowers immediately and have limited patience with yellowing foliage. A little yellowing is tolerated, and then the whole shebang is cut back before anyone can call the local newspaper and report that Tovah Martin is slipping into neglect. Despite less than perfect treatment, ‘Flaming Purissima’ is on its fourth performance.

You’re wondering about deer, aren’t you? I just spray with a deterrent and it does the trick. As for voles, my secret is to sandwich the bulbs between crushed oyster shells (you can buy them in large bags from the farm feed store as “chicken grit”). It works.

So no more excuses. Now that you’ve found a tulip (try www.johnscheepers.com) that is your dream come true, give it a whirl. Next spring is going to be magic.

Check out my terrarium article in this Saturday’s Daily Telegraph at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningequipment/8465552/Best-in-glass-Tovah-Martins-terrariums.html

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