Darwinhybrids are monster tulips, sometimes with blooms bigger than a clenched fist that are guaranteed to make a bold and dramatically beautiful display anywhere.
This group of tulips came about by crossing old cultivars of late-flowering Darwin tulips with the bold early flowering species tulip, Tulipa fosteriana. This resulted in vigorous tulips with large red flowers that were held atop thick, sturdy, 60 centimetre tall stems. From a gardener’s point of view what makes these stand out is the fact that they are reliably perennial when planted in average garden growing conditions.
Do not be put off these spectacular flowers by the garish displays in public parks, roundabouts and traffic island that will undoubtedly confront you every spring. Mass plantings of Darwinhybrid tulips such as these certainly bring a splash of colour to such surroundings, but would be totally out of scale in a private garden setting.
I use Darwinhybrid tulips singly and in small groups dotted throughout garden borders. In such situations their sturdy stature and bold flowers sit perfectly amidst the fast-growing perennials and flowering shrubs that surround them. The fact that they are more than likely to return year on year makes them indispensable. Interestingly, the flowers will be smaller in subsequent years bringing them more into scale with a domestic setting.
‘Daydream’ is my first choice when I need a dramatic, mid-season flowering tulip. It is a sport of a very popular cultivar called ‘Golden Parade’ and when it opens it would be difficult to tell them apart. What happens over the next few days enthrals me every season. By the second morning ‘Daydream’s flower colour has begun to darken and gradually over the subsequent days becomes a warm glowing medley of light toffee orange. It is as if their character changes from fresh impishness to seductive maturity.
The majority of Darwinhybrids are red, orange, yellow and various combinations of these. Names such as ‘Red Impression’, ‘Apeldoorn Elite’, ‘Oxford’, ‘Dover’, ’Parade’ and ‘Golden Parade’ and ‘Ad Rem’ are just some of the better known cultivars familiar to most gardeners. Where a bold colour theme is being developed in a garden these are all reliable tulips that can play a useful role.
If there is one Darwinhybrid that you must try it is ‘Banja Luka’. In many ways it is the culmination of everything that makes these bulbs invincible. Huge flowers that open into generous bowls of broad rich red petals each of which is edged and streaked with glowing yellow makings. These are not subtle flowers, but scream for your attention. Just a few dotted through an area of the garden will bring it alive bringing pleasure to everyone who sees them.
Not all Darwinhybrids are red, yellow or orange. ‘Pink Impression’ is one of a relatively early flowering group that includes ‘Salmon Impression’ and ‘Design Impression’ - a new addition to the group that offers the added bonus of white edged variegated foliage. Indeed, ‘Design Impression’ would be one Darwinhybrid tulip worth using as a pot-grown specimen.
There are no pure white Darwinhybrids, but the nearest we come to is ‘Ivory Floradale’. This extremely attractive cultivar is pale yellow and looks sensational in combination with other mid-season flowering yellow tulips.
Last but not least there is a new Darwinhybrid tulip called ‘Purple Pride’. This is a unique addition to the range of this important group of tulips. The colour is a soft lilac-purple that triggers a host of ideas for exciting combinations both with other tulips, but also early flowering perennials and shrubs. It will work perfectly with ‘Pink Impression’ and will be indispensable within mixed colour combinations including other lilac, purple, mauve and black flowered, mid and late-season tulips.