The National Collection of Tulipa species

The Garden's National Collection of species tulips is on display in the Mountains House. Raising these packed terracotta pots of tulips up to waist height allows close apreciation of their beautiful goblets.
At the mere mention of tulips, many immediately conjure up images of Dutch bulb fields awash with a rash of intense, brilliant colour. For the tulip enthusiast the genus offers far more than familiar favourites such as ‘Apeldoorn’ or ‘Queen of Night’.

The Garden holds the National Collection of species tulips. On flowering, each pot of bulbs is displayed in our Alpine House. Though incomparable with the vast acres of tulips in Holland, our small collection is invaluable in demonstrating the natural diversity of this genus, and the origin of one of our most familiar garden plants.

The collection is diverse in colour, form and flowering time. The season begins with the diminutive, white Tulipa cretica, which starts the show in February. Flowering is rounded off in May or June by the tall, elegant scarlet Tulipa sprengeri.

The Collection has its origins in the 1920s, when William Rickatson Dykes, Secretary of the Royal Horticultural Society was determined to understand more about the origins of the garden tulip and the diversity of the genus. Over subsequent years his collection grew, and was gifted to the Botanic Garden in 1948.

Today the collection comprises species which naturally occur in a range extending from western Europe to eastern Asia, and numbers approximately 80 in total. Given their natural distribution, it is no coincidence that their cultivation increased in the Ottoman Empire, and this in turn gave rise to the phenomenon of Tulipmania in the 1630s. The lady tulips, Tulipa clusiana, along with Tulipa praestans start off the successional display with fiery reds, yellows and apricots, closely followed by the more demure Tulipa humilis, some selections with gorgeous pointed white petals with a smokey blue stain at the base.

For more information on how our National Collection of species tulips came to be, please follow the link to the left.

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