Drawing inspiration from seasonal garden favourites and condensing ideas into containers is both creative and playful. Tulipa praestans ‘Fusilier’ signifies the end of winter and the anticipation of warmer days of spring.
Here I’ve combined their neat, cup-shaped, vivid-red blooms with the tactile, narrow-leaved, claret sedge, Uncinia rubra, and the soft, glaucous foliage of Euphorbia characias ‘Portuguese Velvet’, which offers a wonderful contrast to the tulips’ ruby tones.
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How to achieve the look
This sturdy wooden planter, made from reclaimed scaffolding boards, is an idea I borrowed from The Walled Garden nursery in Kent. It is both simple and inexpensive (I picked up the board for less than £5) to make, and you can dictate the length and width by cutting the boards to the required size and screwing together. Rubbing a little dirt into the depressions where the screws entered gives the box a rustic look, disguising the recent modifications. Even the old dab of orange paint on the metal trim ties in with the boisterous tulip, a complete coincidence, but one I enjoy. Remember to allow enough drainage when constructing your own planter, I drilled a series of holes on the underside to prevent waterlogging.
Left: Tulipa praestans ‘Fusilier’ A short, multi-headed species cultivar, which has intense red flowers in March. 20-30cm. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b.
Right: Uncinia rubra Clump-forming, red-leaved sedge. Evergreen foliage and dark-brown to black flower spikes in summer. 30cm. RHS H3.
Euphorbia characias ‘Portuguese Velvet’ A compact cultivar, with soft, downy, glaucous foliage. Its flowers are an intense, chartreuse green and are borne above the foliage in early spring to early summer. 60cm. RHS H4, USDA 7a-9b.
Cultivation and care
Ideally, you should add spring bulbs into your container, at roughly three times the depth of the bulb, in the autumn, but tulips are quite happy to be moved and replanted if there is minimal root disturbance. Carefully, wash off the roots under slow running water to separate individual bulbs from a lifted clump, then, carefully sink them into your desired spot. For this display, place the euphorbias first, making sure they are equally spaced (I used three), then surround these with around four times as many tulips planted randomly so it doesn’t look too formal. Finally, you can tuck the sedge into the front edge. Both the euphorbia and sedge have evergreen foliage providing winter interest before the tulips pop in March.
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