The Plant Lover’s Guide to Tulips by Richard Wilford – A Review


All the gardener will need to know about tulips is presented in this book in an informative, concise, readable and well-illustrated manner. The author, Richard Wilford, spent many years looking after the general bulb collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, but travels to see species tulips growing in the wild and to the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, sparked a passion for tulips. He is a member of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Bulb Committee, has contributed to many publications and has also written a number of books, Tulips: Species and Hybrids for the Gardener (Timber Press, 2006), Alpines: From Mountain to Garden (Kew, 2010) and Growing Garden Bulbs (Kew, 2013) all illustrated extensively by his own photographs.

This is one of a series of Plant Lover’s Guides from Timber Press and follows the general layout of the series, a layout which makes for easy reading and quick access to relevant information. Indeed, it is a feature of this series that all the information included in each book is relevant. The editing has been very tight with the authors writing to strict guidelines and I have found this has been a very successful approach and could not but recommend these books to the gardener reader. If there is a title on a plant which interests you then you can purchase that book  with an assurance that you will enjoy it, be well informed and have a good reference book to hand. Others plants covered in the series include dahlias, sedums, ferns, snowdrops, salvias, epimediums and asters. It would be fair to say the series is pitched at the enthusiast rather than the specialist and so will have a wide audience.

After some brief introductory comments the book gives an extensive treatment to “Designing with Tulips” and covers their use as bedding plants, in containers and in mixed plantings, on gravel beds, rock gardens, in woodland and grassy meadows with suggested cultivars or species for each use. “Understanding Tulips” describes the morphology of the bulb before describing the fifteen cultivar groups used to classify tulips today.

The central and largest section of the book, “100 Tulips for the Garden” is the one which will attract readers most and its colourful illustrations and informative comments will have us making lists for the autumn orders.  Given that there are thousands of tulips cultivars the 100 presented here is obviously a selection and has been chosen to show the variety not just in the shade of each colour but also in flower shape, size and bloom time. When the choice available to us can at time be overwhelming such a narrowing down and recommendation of the best is very useful indeed.

The final section, “Growing and Propagation” deals with the practicalities of growing tulips with advice on planting, soil preparation, growing in containers,  pests and diseases etc – the basics, well covered and well explained, to the point and useful.

Another good book in this series, certainly worth a read.

Paddy Tobin

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