Gardening With Tulips: Book Review

– Posted in: Book reviews

Gardening with Tulips by Michael KingI have clay soil and several kinds of rodents in my garden, and I’d pretty much given up on growing tulips, but Gardening with Tulips by Michael King is making me reconsider. Not just because of the gorgeous color photos on every page, but because it’s filled with specific advice on using tulips as an element of garden design. There’s the obligatory chapter on botany and history (I am so sick of tulipomania, and I think King is, too), but the book then devotes several chapters to different ways that tulips can function in the garden’s overall design and the varying effects that can be achieved depending on the companion plants chosen.

King reviews the standard tulip divisions and highlights the most garden-worthy cultivars within each division. A chapter organizing cultivars by color follows, a more efficient design tool than paging through a handful of catalogues trying to find a good match. The book ends with a chapter on culture, including how to get non-blooming tulips back to blooming size and recognizing diseases. 

King is opinionated; he doesn’t like double tulips and as for crocuses, “their goblet-shaped flowers look heavy and vulgar in such close proximity to the far more elegant tulip flowers and the result is simply ugly.” But he never lets his prejudices stop him from telling you what you need to know to achieve the look you want.

Originally published in Horticulture, April 2006 as one of several mini-reviews.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Carol at April 9, 2011, 8:43 am

Ok, the book is now on my official list of ‘What I want for Mother’s Day’. Anyone got some terrific tulips to recommend that really do come back in our cold climates?

Kathy Purdy April 9, 2011, 9:01 am

I think there are certain classes that are more perennial than others. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs says Darwin Hybrids are best for perennial bedding.

Matriarchy March 29, 2011, 10:17 am

Thanks! I had not heard of Grani-grit or Permatill until now. I will also experiment with surface gravel. I want to prepare some cutting beds this year, between the rows of the summer vegetable beds.

Patrick's Garden March 28, 2011, 1:20 pm

Amen to being opinionated about double tulips. I find them artificial and they are vulgar. Thanks for highlighting this old review. I’ve already placed a hold at the local library. I often use the library to review a title and if I love it then I’ll buy the book for my gardening own library.

Matriarchy March 27, 2011, 3:24 pm

But how to do we keep the darned rodents from eating our carefully positioned bulbs? Does he have anything to say about that?

Kathy Purdy March 27, 2011, 8:07 pm

He really only devotes a few paragraphs to rodents. Plant deeply; cover the planted area with gravel; don’t leave bits of tunic lying about. But also see my reply to Alex below.

Alex Solla March 27, 2011, 3:18 pm

So, does he talk much about soil requirements or drainage? Like you, I have been struggling for years to get tulips to make it through more than one season. I get one nice flush, and by the next year they have all rotted in the ground. Now I want to read this book! Tell me more…

Kathy Purdy March 27, 2011, 3:24 pm

Alex, I read the book cover to cover when I did the review back in 2006, but I haven’t looked at it for a while. I will have to do that soon. But I know mixing Grani-grit into the soil has helped me get some tulips to come back for a second year, and also discourages rodents. Of course, many tulips just aren’t cut out for perennializing or only do so when they have a hot, dry summer. Some folks use Perma-til instead of Grani-grit.