Tulips for A Shutterbug

As a landscape designer, I tend to plant daffodils for clients who have deer problems, or who prefer bulbs that can be depended upon to return for many years, if the site is right (mostly in terms of adequate sun and not too much ground moisture).

But as a photographer, my heart belongs primarily to tulips. Here is one of my first images of a tulip taken just for the pure joy of the color. I was trying out my new macro lens at the Cylburn Arboretum, near Baltimore. I have to say the composition isn’t great – your eye doesn’t really know where to rest. But the color probably made me a little crazy.

Parrot tulips

Parrot tulips at the Cylburn Arboretum near Baltimore, MD.

Brookside Gardens is a great place to photograph daffodils in the spring (my next header, going up in April, is a “slice” of tulips from one of their beds a couple of years ago).  In this shot, I went for the repeating line of the bulb heads. I think this is probably ‘Princes Irene,’ one of the most fabulous of the orange tulips. Wish I’d gotten a little more of the stem in the shot.

Tulip Princes Irene, Brookside Gardens

Orange tulips at Brookside Gardens

Another great place to photograph different varieties of tulips is the Tulip Library in downtown DC,  near the Tidal Basin in view of the Jefferson Memorial. You have to catch it just right, but if you do there are countless varieties to enjoy, all of them labeled.  Here’s ‘Banja Luka’ from an early-morning visit several years ago. This time, I went for a cropped profile shot, close up to capture the dew still on the petals.

Tulip Banja Luka, Tulip Library

Tulip 'Banja Luka' at the National Tulip Library can't be checked out except visually.

Finally, here are two more recent photos, both taken at my house with the tulips in vases, so I was able to control lighting and was able to get shots without contorting my body or groveling in the dirt. Special thanks to Brent and Becky Heath, whose bulb company sent me (as a member of the Garden Writers Association) some extra bulbs to trial. So here is ‘Perestroyka’, followed by a closeup of an unknown pink tulip.

Tulip Perestroyka, Brent and Becky's Bulbs

A clutch of Tulip Perestroyka, their stems bending over the side of a vase.

macro photography, tulips

This shape on the side of the tulip is what caught my eye as a photographer.

One final note: if you love tulips and want some that do come back (unlike the Darwin hybrids and the other stunners shown above), try some species tulips, like the Kaufmanniana or Greigii cultivars. I have a small group of  ‘Stresa’ tulips (yellow and red) that have been blooming reliably for me for over six years in a sunny, well-drained site. More on these another time!

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15 Comments on “Tulips for A Shutterbug”

  1. gardeningasylum Says:

    Hi Melissa – I love tulips too, but rodents eat everything I plant here. Last fall we put in 100 of the greigii ‘Toronto’ at the senior housing gardens our club maintains – got my fingers crossed. Stunning photos, especially Perestroyka!

    • Melissa Says:

      Ooh, ‘Toronto,’ a Canadian tulip! Isn’t that one red? I wish you luck against those feisty rodents. Have you heard about Ropel? Good against squirrels, at least around here.

  2. Sheila Says:

    Beautiful photos!

  3. Nell Jean Says:

    Lovely photos. Princes Irene is a fav.

    I’ve given up tulips, once I proved that I could, indeed, grow them in the hot and humid south. Daffodils and hyacinths are much more satisfying for much less effort.


  4. Powerful photography! I can almost feel the texture on the tulip petals.


  5. What beautiful photos. I agree that although beautiful, the Parrot Tulip may be best viewed with sunglasses. I do love the colors of the Orange Tulips!


  6. Gorgeous photos, I actually love the first one best, kind of like a kaleidoscope.


  7. Beautiful portraits of your tulips! I especially love the fourth one! You are so right about the species tulips. I had planted hundreds of tulips over the years but today have none… voles find them very tasty! ;>)

  8. Edith Hope Says:

    Dear Melissa, I have so enjoyed this posting of your images of tulips, one of my favourite of spring time bulbs. To be really honest, I find daffodils a trifle tedious.

    I do think, like you, that it is a good idea to move away from the Darwins in favour of some of the very excitingly coloured and shaped other cultivars. Do you by any chance grow the self seeding Tulipa sprengeri?

  9. Elizabeth Reed Says:

    wonderful. Especially love the last photo which, to me, is more like a drawing. Thanks so much for naming particular cultivars, Melissa, and thanks also to the other bloggers for helping to expand my tulip palette. I use ‘Lilac Wonder’ a lot, (it’s not lilac, but pink) and a Greigii. I love the parrots and ‘Princess Irene’. I also use a bright green i think Darwinian variety, whose name escapes me, and i do replace it a lot, but love it.
    As far as critter resistance in the bulb category, i just tried Leucojem, which proved true to its claim of deer resistance, at least. it bloomed a little later than daffs, but was lovely.

  10. Melissa Says:

    Thanks to everyone – I didn’t expect so many responses to this post! Edith, I haven’t tried T. sprengeri but will put it on my list for next year. Liz, I have planted Leucojem for a client with a very wet site and I love that it blooms just after the other bulbs. Maybe the green variety you plant is one of the ‘viridis’ types? I like ‘Lilac Wonder’ as well and used to have it in my yard but it died out eventually. Only ‘Stresa’ is still coming back. Noelle, like you and Liz, I think Princes Irene is a real showstopper.

  11. GloriaBonde Says:

    All the photos are beautiful. But the last 2 reminded me of “Art Deco” artwork – spectacular! G

  12. Melissa Says:

    Thank you! Sometimes I make prints of my photos but haven’t done any of the tulips. Maybe it’s time.

  13. John Says:

    You make those tulips all look like art projects. Even if they are more ephemeral than daffodils they certainly get planted around here. Deer and voles be damned. One species type that has been a reliable performer for 40 years is Praestans fusiliers. And I also found that the lily flowered types seem to last a long time. ‘Maytime’ has been with us for 40 years as well.

    • Melissa Says:

      Ooh, thanks for the recommendations – this is such a good forum for learning more about species tulips that work for other gardeners. And I will look up ‘Maytime’ as well. Thanks for the tips – and the kind words about the photos. This is one of the places where my love for gardens and photography merges very happily.


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