I'm a bit late posting these two shots, and have had them in draft form for a week or so, but now that they're almost done blooming, I figured now or never!
These dainty tulips are the other variety of 'Species Tulip' (Tulipa humilis) that I mentioned in a previous post earlier this year, and one from last year. As recently as a few weeks ago, I had hastily concluded that since they weren't up when the 'Persian Pearl' variety was blooming, that they had probably succumbed to the great tulip die off ... but as you can see here, I was oh sooo wrong. And glad to be wrong (for once!)
Fernymoss tried to reassure me that this variety, Little Beauty, was always much later than the other one, and that I should just quit worrying about it. Turns out he was right and shortly after 'Persian Pearl' finished blooming these little ones started showing up ... and contrary to the usual five we have (I got five of these as a freebie from Van Bourgondien), we now seem to have about 8 or 9 at present. So I guess they were just busy underground there for a while, preparing their much welcome and eventual arrival on the scene! At this point in the spring, these represent the last of the tulips to bloom and they'll only be around for maybe another few days or so before they die back until next year. Interestingly, the new ones that bloomed this year aren't quite true to the originals represented by these photos. 'Little Beauty,' as typically described, has deep pink to red outer petals, an inner band of white and a 'slate blue' center. The few variants that emerged this year followed the same basic pattern, however they have petals that have clearly morphed more into the orange range which really has brought an interesting contrast to the rest of their buddies. I suspect this is probably due to natural variations in the species, rather than being some odd cross that has occurred, though with the number of bees and other insects who visit them while they bloom, I suppose a cross could have happened somehow.
I'd encourage any of you tulip fans out there to consider planting some of the dwarf varieties (I certainly plan on getting a few more this fall!), because they offer all the beauty of their larger cousins, but can be grown comfortably in much smaller spaces (and only need to go down 4-5 inches rather than the regular 8 for larger tulips), they don't mind being crowded a bit, and as I mentioned in my previous post, they make excellent companions for other smaller spring bulbs such as Muscari and Hyacinths (just make sure you set any Hyacinths back a bit so that they don't overwhelm them). I often consult Paghat's Garden (see sidebar on resources) for excellent advice on growing certain species, and she mentions an interesting strategy that she has employed to great effect. She suggests planting them deep (at 8 inches), filling in a bit over the tulips and then planting very early snow crocus on another level above them. The crocus would then come up first, and then when they're done, the tulips can take over the show later in the spring ... I've seen others mention this technique but we've never really used it before, but I might be tempted to do just that with the next ones I plant. Again, I highly recommend these to any tulip fancier because they're just as beautiful, only smaller, and do have the advantage of sticking around in cool weather a bit longer than their bigger cousins the Darwins. And best of all, for such lovely tulips, they really aren't expensive at all, and if you shop around online at such places as Van Bourgondien, Park Seeds or McClure-Zimmerman, you can often find some really nice prices on these 'Species' tulips!