There are tulips – and there are Tulips. As I strolled around the magnificent Filoli Garden in San Francisco last week there was no doubt that these were TULIPS.

tulip collage

For the most part these had been planted in simple, terracotta colored pots so that the flamboyant flowers could be brought out for display when each variety reached its peak.  Both the tulips and I reveled in the warm spring sunshine – life seemed to slow down.


Pots were clustered together on steps, in doorways and used to flank pathways. Every garden had its own color scheme which the tulip displays highlighted.


Where tulips were planted in the ground they were corralled by manicured boxwood hedges, vibrant under the dappled canopy of the flowering cherry trees.

But this is a grand estate garden with a team of 14 full time horticulturalists, numerous student interns and more than 100 volunteers. What can the typical home gardener take away from this?

I see my lesson as being abundance.  Rather than planting just a few tulips in my mixed containers I like the idea of filling simple pots with just one tulip variety, and waiting to display them until they are in full bloom. Perhaps a succession of colors in different pots? Maybe I can just plant them in black nursery pots and slip these inside my decorative pots when the moment is right?

IMG_2517 The other thing I learned? It’s OK to sit once in a while and simply enjoy them.

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