Spring is no time to be shy. Go ahead and plant traffic-stopping tulips.
If you’re trying to attract attention, tulips do it with ease: their bright colors are irresistible. Big, single-color flowers like the scarlet ‘Ad Rem’ make a bold statement, and two-tone blooms and colorful combinations will turn heads even at 45 mph.
Yellow is actually the most attention-grabbing color in a garden, says Jimmy Turner, director of horticulture research at the Dallas Arboretum. Turner is an adept gardener who appreciates subtleties but loves the excitement of hot colors and Texas-sized displays of blooms. Pastel colors are pretty, of course, but if you’re trying to make a splash, go with a bold palette. “If you plant pale lavender, people won’t notice,” Turner says. Yellow, orange, red, and flashy striped tulips make a huge impression blooming in great sweeps of color in flower beds, in front of evergreen foundation plantings, or along a front walk.
Fortunately, the wide world of tulips — there are thousands of varieties — includes a great number of very bright colors. A planting of several varieties will give you a show that lasts for weeks.
‘Hamilton’ is one of the brightest yellow tulips, but there are many choices: ‘Holland Emotions’ displays its rich yellow blooms on stems up to 22 inches tall. ‘Fire Wings’ is a tall red tulip with yellow-tipped petals; ‘Mickey Mouse’ is as captivating as its namesake: its red and yellow flowers are only about 14 inches tall, but they are extraordinarily impressive, especially planted by the dozens.
Fancy ‘Peach Melba’ is a double-early tulip with a colorful two-tone punch; its peachy-pink outer petals surround apricot inner petals. ‘World Peace’ is a sturdy Darwin tulip with magenta blooms, edged in golden yellow.
Don’t hold back when you’re going for a big effect: plant five tulip bulbs per square foot. If the bed along your front walk is 20 feet long and 2 feet wide, that’s 40 square feet, which comes to 200 tulips — or 400, if you’re planting on both sides of the walk. And when they bloom, they’ll knock everybody’s socks off.