Missing: my darling Jacqui... the search for a lost tulip

I found the most perfect tulip, says Emma Townshend.  She’s playful and charming and perked me right up – but now I can’t find her anywhere. Somebody help me!

So I couldn’t get the tulip that I wanted. I had ordered and grown “Jacqueline” the previous year – to start with almost as a joke, because it’s a friend’s name. They were pure deep-pink and lily-flowered; their photo alone made me smile. And “Jacqueline” came up beautifully. Not only did she come up the first year, but the bulbs made a repeat showing – the only tulips of that year’s vast imperial spread to manage  a second time around.

“Jacqueline” ended up charming the whole neighbourhood. People stopped and admired; they asked for her name and then actually wrote it down. I thought about ordering an extra bag, 30 or 40, to plant up for friends, so we could have themed “our road” tulip pots. And that’s when the trouble began.

Because by then “Jacqueline” had dropped off the horti radar. In the two years between being fêted in the catalogue and making  a star performance in the heart of London’s Travelcard Zone 3, she’d been dumped. By everyone. Parkers, De Jager, the lot. Despite her shiny spring pinkness and her perky floral attitude, I couldn’t find a soul to sell her to me.

I complained about this. Vociferously.  I complained to friends, acquaintances, but most of all to people who sell bulbs for a living. “Ah yes, well, tulips just do come and go. Be  no room for the new ones if we kept all the old ones!” one sage told me. Wow, thanks. “It’s not always our fault,” he continued, slightly more apologetically. “There was  a wonderful parrot tulip that everyone wanted a few years ago. The entire world stock was in one lorry going from one side of Holland to  the other, and the driver crashed and went into a ditch. Wiped the tulip out.”

Apart from such apocalyptic scenarios,  I mourn the notion that such a good tulip  could suddenly be gone. I spent a long time at the Bloms stand at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show, sizing up my other possibilities. For example, Bloms sells “Mariette”, a very good pink lily-flowered tulip, as a possible replacement. Or “Yonina”, with really flared rose petals, almost angled like fighter-jet wings, with a subtle whitening towards the tips. But “Mariette” is taller, more vase-like, and “Yonina” is slightly too stylised: neither has Jacqueline’s playfulness. Even as I fill in the order form, naming “Mariette” for 2014, I’m irritated that I can’t just have “Jacqueline”.

Richard Wilford, bulb supremo at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, doesn’t tackle my “Jacqueline issues” in his new book Growing Garden Bulbs (£7, Royal Botanic Gardens), but he does have a go at pretty much everything else. It’s a slim, useful book, ideal for a first-time bulb-grower. Wilford is a tulip enthusiast, but is cheerfully devoted to almost anything that grows from a corm, rhizome or tuber, as seen in his changing pot displays in Kew’s Davies Alpine House, showing off something good every week of the year.

Wilford has  a lot of useful tips about how to tackle the long-term care  of bulbs (feed with tomato food when the plants are in bloom, to avoid producing leaf rather than flowers); and has many pointers on planting, either in pots or in the soil. But of course the real fun is his choice selection of good flowering bulbs to run right across the gardening year, beginning with elegant snowdrops such as Galanthus elwesii in winter and ending with the bright sting of lilac provided by autumn cyclamen, already blooming in my garden.

For each bulb group, Wilford provides several good choices, plus some more unusual options for the fancier horticulturalist. Look under tulips, and you’ll find reminders of lovely “Prinses Irene”, a glorious, flaming royal Dutch orange, and the austere, stylish flair of “White Triumphator”. And for the already initiated he puts in a word for the species tulips, which will come back year  after year if grown right.

But I still pine for “Jacqueline”. And I was reminded once more while reading a post  by Helen Johnstone, who blogs at patient gardener.wordpress.com. She was enthusing about Peter Nyssen Bulbs (peternyssen.com), and after chatting to her about it, I had a look at their website. I applied the “Jacqueline test”. I idly typed in my most enduring bulbular obsession, and up she came. Finally, “Jacqueline” is on her way. Thank you Helen, and thank you, thank you, Peter Nyssen.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture