10 tulips to help you create your own colourful displays

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:04 28 November 2017

Visitors admire  tulips  near the Old Bathhouse at RHS Garden Harlow Carr

Visitors admire tulips near the Old Bathhouse at RHS Garden Harlow Carr


Paul Cook, responsible for managing and developing the RHS Harlow Carr’s plant collections shares his top tulip tips.

Ballerina Photo: RHS / Tim SandallBallerina Photo: RHS / Tim Sandall


Burnt orange lily-flowered tulip with dainty fluted tangerine petals and a honey scent. This is a good choice for domestic gardens and clay soils. Ballerina has survived three winters in the ground in Harlow Carr’s scented garden - pretty good going for a tulip!

Daydream Photo: Graham TitchmarshDaydream Photo: Graham Titchmarsh


This Darwin hybrid is a tall tulip, growing up to 55cm high, with bold, yellow blooms fading to apricot. As well as its impressive height, it is robust and extremely weatherproof. We planted 3,000 Daydream bulbs in one of our displays last year and they withstood the spring showers and blustery weather to flower for a solid two-three weeks before the petals finally fell.

Don Quichotte Photo:RHS / Simon GarbuttDon Quichotte Photo:RHS / Simon Garbutt

Don Quichotte

Classic triumph tulip with strong dark pink blooms; looks stunning with the inky black of Paul Scherer in a container display.

Prinses Irene Photo: RHS / Carol SheppardPrinses Irene Photo: RHS / Carol Sheppard

Prinses Irene

Single early tulip, a small, delicate, cup shaped soft-orange, with an unusual purple flame decoration on the tepals of the petals. Teamed with Hermitage, a darker orange, and Prinses Margriet, a bright yellow tulip all sharing the same purple tepal decorations –simply gorgeous!

Purissima Photo: RHS / Mike SleighPurissima Photo: RHS / Mike Sleigh


One of the earliest of the tulips, this fosteriana tulip is pure white, small in comparison (40cm) to the others mentioned, but for a succession, is a great choice to kick start a display.

White Triumphator Photo:RHS / Claire CampbellWhite Triumphator Photo:RHS / Claire Campbell

White Triumphator

Clean, crisp white lily-flowered tulip; tall and elegant with fluted petals. We planted this in the old winter garden where it looked amazing with all the evergreens in spring. It survived two seasons in the ground before the winter wet got it.

Black Parrot  Photo:Graham TitchmarshBlack Parrot Photo:Graham Titchmarsh

Black Parrot

A dark purple, almost black, heavily ruched tulip with feathery tips to the petals, this is a real show stopper. Not as weather proof as some of the other choices, but worth growing for the spectacle alone. This one does better in containers than it does in the ground.

West Point Photo:RHS / Leigh HuntWest Point Photo:RHS / Leigh Hunt

West Point

A zingy citrus yellow lily-flowered fluted tulip. Stately and very upright, it generated a chorus of ‘oohs and aahs’ from visitors last year when we planted it en mass in the front of house containers, together with tulip spring green.

Couleur Cardinal  Photo:RHS / Carol SheppardCouleur Cardinal Photo:RHS / Carol Sheppard

Couleur Cardinal

One of the shorter, single early flowerers, with blood red petals and a bluey tinge to the centre. It is small in stature, but rich in colour.

Exotic Emperor Photo: RHS / Bob MartinExotic Emperor Photo: RHS / Bob Martin

Exotic Emperor

This white-green late flowering tulip boasts an unusual colour combination that helps it stand out from the crowd.

A family enjoy the tulips in the Gardens Through Time  at RHS Garden Harlow CarrA family enjoy the tulips in the Gardens Through Time at RHS Garden Harlow Carr

Put down that brochure boasting trips to Amsterdam to marvel at the tulips. Instead create your own spectacular display with some help from RHS Harlow Carr garden experts in Harrogate. The botanical gardens have developed their first Tulip Trail to celebrate the colour, shape and scent from more than 100 varieties of tulip and over 25,000 bulbs throughout May.

Curator Paul Cook hopes to inspire visitors with a range of stunning displays and 
planting schemes from traditional beds and borders to quirky containers including handbags, wellington boots and wheelbarrows. There is even a must-see tulip-filled boat floating on the Queen Mother’s Lake.

‘We are transforming the garden into a living tulip catalogue,’ said Paul, ‘and allowing visitors to get up close to a huge variety of tulips, some small and wild species, others big, showy specimens.

‘We are displaying the blooms in unusual containers designed to inspire visitors and encourage them to replicate what they see at home. You don’t need a lot of space to put on a spectacular display – a window box or a pair of wellies filled with a tasteful choice of bulbs can add instant colour, they don’t cost a lot and they are easy to plant and maintain.’

Want to know more? Visit rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr. And share images of your tulip display with us by emailing feedback@yorkshirelife.co.uk or on Twitter @Yorkshire_Life or upload to our reader photo gallery. We would love to see them.

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