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The Charm of the Wild Blooms in Species Tulips

October 10, 1998|From Associated Press

Wild tulips sound like a contradiction in terms. After all, tulips are aristocrats of the garden, stately and formal. But among the many species of tulips available, there are many wild ones, the so-called "species" tulips.

Species tulips bring charm and informality to the spring garden. Many are small plants you'll want to admire close up. Sow species tulips in a rock garden, poking up through creeping thyme, or near your terrace. Plan for earlier color from species tulips because many bloom with early crocuses, a time when color is especially welcome.

A nice feature of many species tulips is they are truly perennial, coming back year after year with more and more blossoms. In contrast, garden tulips fizzle out after a couple of years, then need replanting.

Species tulip can mean any one of 150 species. Flowers range from the starry clumps held a few inches off the ground, to enormous urns held loftily in the air. Here is a sampling of some species tulips you may want to try in your garden:

* For a waterlily out of water, one whose blossoms unfold with the early crocuses, grow waterlily tulip. The creamy yellow petals, brushed with rose color on their outside, sit on stalks six inches above the ground. A thin margin of red borders each broad leaf.

* For a couple of large-flowered tulips to follow waterlily tulips in bloom next spring, plant wood tulips and Red Emperor tulips. Wood tulips' rounded flowers have golden-yellow petals shaded brown or green on their outsides. Red Emperor's flowers are--as you would expect--dazzling red.

* For dainty flowers to bloom with the waterlily tulip and the Red Emperor tulip, try Tulipa Turkestanica and Tulipa Biflora, neither of which has a common name. On sunny days, Tulipa Turkestanica unfurls as many as a dozen starlike flowers atop a 9-inch stem. Each petal is white, with a yellow blotch at the base of its inner surface, and a tinge of gray-violet on its outer surface. Tulipa Biflora looks similar, except smaller.

* For a late-blooming tulip, try Lady tulip. This one has a slender flower, white inside, with crimson bands from top to bottom on the outside. Flowers are short-lived but fragrant.

There is plenty of time to plant species tulips this fall for blooms next spring and years to come. These bulbs need well-drained soil and spring sunshine. Plant the bulbs deep: the small ones at four inches, and the large ones at eight inches.

Species tulips are a little harder to find than garden tulips, and if you cannot find the bulbs offered locally, you may want to call the following mail-order sources: Dutch Gardens (800) 818-3861; John Scheepers (860) 567-0838; McClure & Zimmerman (920) 326-4220 and Wayside Gardens (800) 845-1124.

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