Parrot tulips are utterly fascinating. They are so sensuous with their feathered and frilled petals, their stippled colours and their wavy and curling flowers. Bred from Triumph and Late Double tulips, the Parrots will not all flower at the same time but tend to emerge in mid-May and will astonish you for weeks after that with their enormous flowers and crinkly petals with a satin sheen to them. Each variety in the collection is packed separately and are chosen for their vigour and impact. To begin with there is the sheer drama of the RHS AGM holder, Black Parrot with its deep maroon colouring and exaggerated jagged edges; Blue Parrot is an elusive, purply-blue with flamboyant feathering; Rococo is the velvety red of an old-fashioned boudoir where the centre of each petal looks almost bruised with purple and is also scented; another scented variety, Orange Favourite is not a tango orange but a classy burnt umber with undulating petals and purple markings; White Rebel has large, ivory white petals that are deeply feathered so that they could almost be ostrich feathers that curl and twist over time to create interesting shapes. Of course you can buy these and other varieties in our collection of selected tulip bulbs
There is no doubt about it but en masse these tulips look as busy and captivating as an aviary of the most exotic birds. The splendid, large flowers are so ornate and unusual that they almost look like they are made from gorgeous silks. As a consequence, you need to grow them somewhere sheltered from the worst of the wet and wind. Large urns on a sheltered terrace would provide a perfect location. And with such a choice of colours you can mix and match your display to your heart's delight: Black Parrot with 'White Rebel would suggest a contemporary twist, while 'Orange Favourite' with 'Rococo' would be great in a hot coloured border. In the garden itself, because the colour and form of these tulips is so elaborate you need little else with them - a dark yew hedge would be a great backdrop, or even the bright, green leaves of a beech or hornbeam hedge.
There are over 3000 registered varieties of tulip, and every year more and more are cultivated in more and more abstruse colours and shapes. Keep an eye out every year to see what the Dutch growers have been up to; there is bound to be a shade you have never seen before and you will not be able to resist trying it out. Extraordinary to think that this massive industry started out over a thousand years ago in Turkey from where we get the name of the tulip. It is derived from the Turkish for Turban.