While we are waiting for the large tulips to start, many of the smaller species ones are out of bed and flowering already.
One of these is Tulipa praestans, a native of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, where it grows on rocky slopes and screes, and in light woodland. In the garden, it should be given a sunny position in well-drained soil, when it will begin flowering around the end of March on stems anything between six and fifteen inches high. Even with the cold spring here this year, it is just coming into flower now. The type has bright red-orange flowers. T. p. ‘Fusilier’ is the form most commonly available. Although each individual bloom is a little smaller than that of the species, each bulb can produce up to seven at a time, giving a concentrated display. The flower colour is bright red, providing a bright splash even on the greyest of days.
For something a little less bold, you could try T. p. ‘Shogun.’
Although these tulips will persist for several years, you may find the number of flowers decreases with time.
‘Praestans’ means excellent, a fitting name for such a stalwart of the spring garden.