Never mind the neighbours, be out loud and proud with brightly coloured tulips this year and get rid of those insipid pale pinks
There's a lot of conflicting advice when it comes to tulips. The first question is whether to grow them or not. "Tulips are one of the few brightly coloured flowers accepted by even the most 'avant-gardeners'," proclaimed one eminent plantsman recently. "Nonsense," sniffed another, "not to put too fine a point on it, they are a bit vulgar." "Try not to plant in groups of fewer than 50 of each variety," suggested a tulip pundit, writing during last year's late-autumn planting season. "On the whole, it's best not to mix your tulips," she added sternly. But pause before rushing to rent a paddock suitable for optimum monochrome tulip cultivation, for another article recommended planting in groups of "no more than five". While Rosemary Verey is not averse to a bit of mixing - she says "red tulips need white to make them vibrate". Frustrated fans of glossy reds, oranges and yellows, who chafe all year at sticking to muted lilac, pink and blue for fear of shocking the neighbours, should grab this window of bright-coloured opportunity, for at least tulips seem to enjoy the benefit of the doubt. The timid can stick to white, pale-pink or the cult tulip variety, viridiflora, with green-striped petals, to avoid risking that "municipal planting" look.

Hester Lacey