I 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.