Tulip time… in London

26 April 2015
Ben Pentreath

I have a strange feeling, from time to time, judging from the comments pages, that some readers might have decided to lie in bed for a whole weekend, turn off the phone, and read all 429 posts that I’ve apparently written (this one will be number 430, and for number crunchers there are apparently 4,478 comments which I think is rather wonderful in its way).

If you are one of those readers you will no doubt know that I’ve got a bit of a thing for tulips. “Tulips or Dahlias” I said to Charlie early this morning as we walked down Great Ormond Street. I suppose it’s just one of those questions isn’t it, in a list to which one must add sweet peas, lupins, bearded iris, hollyhocks and foxgloves. “Dahlias”, he replied, which I think if I was very honest I must agree with.  But there’s something nice about the two isn’t there?  Tulips are coming up about the time that the dahlia tubers must be planted, and vice versa. So the finest hour of both is well separated by six months and we have completely forgotten how much we love the other when it is time for their moment in the sun.

So anyway, if you’ve navigated your way through the blog archive, you won’t need pointing in the direction of Tulip TimeTulip Time 2Easter GardenAny colour so long as it’s blackNormal Service Resuming, or On the Cusp to know that it’s the time of the year when, if I have nothing else to say or to write about… It’s going to be blog about tulips.

P1050360I’m very glad not to disappoint. “Oh God”, I said to Charlie this morning, “we’re doing a photoshoot in the office all day and I don’t have a blog”.  Luckily Charlie has filled the house with tulips from Dorset this week, all of which have been getting more and more blowsy by the day, and there is absolutely nothing in the world right now as inspirational as that.  Even my instagram account has gone tulip-central all week. Sorry to get repetitive but I wonder if you will see what I mean?

Anyway, five minutes later I had enough photos to bring a smile to everyone’s face on a Monday morning.

These are the crazy flamed tulips in the sitting room, which have gone completely mad in the last two days.P1050366P1050361 P1050370 P1050373Not quite like a Dutch still life painting, which is normally what people say when you post a photograph of a tulip.

This is a bunch of old classics, Queen of the Night and Black Parrot, that later in the afternoon were to feature in the office shoot:

This bunch, I think, is my favourite of all, the yellow, pink and caramel tones the perfect contrast to the Zoffany grey wallpaper in the bathroom:P1050379 P1050380 P1050381

Charlie had placed this bunch of brown-pink tulips next to his china statue and the colours speak to each other beautifully. It’s an amazing tulip, La Belle Epoque from the unequalled Sarah Raven:P1050384 P1050389

Estella Rynveld Parrot tulips are marginally less subtle:


Not very many of ours have come up this year. I wonder if you’ve had the same problem?

Meanwhile we were taking photographs all day in the office, which are eventually planned to belong to the new architecture and decoration website which is very very very slowly being put together this year.  We were working with Jason Ingram, who I first met when he took beautiful photographs of the Parsonage garden for Gardens Illustrated last spring (and which are published this month, and look wonderful).  Jason’s done a few photoshoots for us since and he is always such a pleasure to work with.

We ended the day in our chocolate brown board room. In a certain light, the walls are almost the colour of a Queen of the Night tulip. P1050394

As the day wore on the tulips drooped in the way that I adore with tulips that are about to pass over.P1050396 P1050400 But the nicest tulip of all? Was on the amazing chocolate cake that Charlie baked for Zoe’s birthday. He dropped it off today at lunch and Jason immediately whipped it away to produce what will be a beautiful shot for Charlie’s new website…. coming soon, to advertise his amazing cakes, the new supper clubs that he’s planning, pop-up shop…and next year… flower deliveries fresh from Dorset. Watch this space!


(…well, the tripod leg won’t be there).

Happy Tulip time!

24 comments on this post

Ben, thanks for the tulipicious blog. I actually had a few in my garden this year, don’t know how the deer managed to overlook them. But nothing as spectacular as yours! How wonderful that Charlie is also “blossoming” with ideas and projects. You do have that effect on people, don’t you? Thanks for sharing the beauty!


I’m going with the school of Surrealism on this one; these tulips are so wondrous as to beggar belief. Wouldn’t you think they would drive men wild with desire to the point where they would pay any money to possess them? Oh, wait—they did!



Thank you for filling the hole that the deer have left behind after eating up my tulips this spring. I suppose I can’t deny them the pleasure that we derive from tulips, albeit from the sense of taste not sight. I can see how lovely the purples and the oranges would have been and you have even added a magnolia twin in La Belle Epoque. Gorgeous, one and all.


Just now reading Anna Pavord’s The Tulip and lusting for them…..thanks for the shot of tulipous beauty! Heaven….

Breathtakingly beautiful set of photographs of your wonderful tulips! Each spring I look forward to daffodils (my favorites but not so much the acid yellow ubiquitous modern variety), but tulips are a close second. One can have so much fun with their rainbow of colors, as you’ve demonstrated with yours.

The black parrots in your boardroom took my breath away. They are perfection set against the moody walls.

Thank you for sharing in the beauty.

Your tulips make everything I’ve seen since look dull, anaemic and positively uninspiring, I am going to have to invest with Sarah Raven – buy shares now!



Love the tulips. The dark purple-looking ones, what is their colour name?

The other item that really intrigued me was your fireplace surround – I’ve never seen one black lacquered before!
Could you do a post on fireplace surrounds?
I’m sure your take would be most enlightening.


The yellow , pink and caramel tones are my favorite and remind me of your dahlias you posted which inspired me to re do my bedroom. Everything is in those colors and it is gorgeous.
as for your blogs. Okay, write the book of your blogs. it would be the MOST marvelous book. PLEASE!!!!!!

Any chance I could borrow Charlie, just for a bit, I’ll give him back -promise…just need a cake and some fresh flowers…


Never, ever too many photos of tulips! Mine seem to be in a holding pattern right now due to the extremely cool weather we’ve been having. I’ve noticed that some that I’ve had for 3 or so years aren’t doing well either, wondering if they’ll only end up with leaves. I usually wouldn’t plant Dahlias because I couldn’t be bothered to dig them up in the Autumn. Last year I gave in and I am so glad I did! I had some stunning Cafe Au Lait and Fleurel blooms so it’s time to get the box out of the garage and get those in the ground. Black Parrot tulips are definitely on the list for planting this autumn. Can’t wait to see Charlie’s multi-faceted website!


Put a two pence piece in the vase and the tulips will stand upright until the very last days.

Sharon Marchsays:

Tulips are just the best, they look beautiful when in bud and go on looking lovely even when drooping and finally losing their leaves. Going to attempt dahlias again this year, will hope they do better than previous attempts.


What a lovely post, thank you! I hope Charlie’s pop-up shop will be the last week of June?? That is when I’ll be visiting, and your shop is first on the itinerary

Fantastic, a riot of colour, such delight to see. I am still waiting for my Parrot Tulips to flower ( No sure of colour, given as a gift so anticipation & excitement to see) so must be much cooler up here in Northamptonshire. As ever thanks.


Okay then, tulips. Because Charlie? You have it. With the colour and fall and swandive shape and all… Those are sumptuoso. And a half.

But otherwise, peonies.

Deirdre McSharrysays:


How can you fail- tulips for ever. Inspired by your snaps have just ordered a Tulip Tower in blue and white delft -of course- from V and A shop. Offered in conjunction with the Reiksmuseum, Amsterdam…Might be good in you sitting room, Deirdre


Thank you for such a beautiful breath of fresh air. It is cold, damp and dreary in Cleveland, Ohio. Today’s blog was a shot in the arm. Well done!


Now , having seen this beautiful profusion of tulips from your own garden- I am truly and completely jealous! 🙂 I love the parrot tulips so much..but even better- I love the pop of colors against the darker tones of the rooms..
Best of luck to Charlie too..

Peter Crispsays:

I treat tulips as annuals and replant every year. This has a number of advantages. You get top class flowers every year, rather than offsets from the main bulb, lower risk of tulip fire, and you can change the colour schemes at will. The obvious disadvantage is cost but there are a couple of very good value wholesalers who I use and I think it is worth it.

Last year for the first time I planted tulips in the garden, and in a pair of terracotta planters, and, although they haven’t all performed well, they look fantastic. I’m quite converted and I shall be buying a lot more this year. Thanks for the post Ben, as always, the photos are wonderful. Rob

Nicola Lawrencesays:

I was one of those people who stayed in bed and read through your blogs when I first ‘met’ them/you… It was bliss… and inspirational. Good luck to Charlie with his new ventures – how wonderful.. The tulip photos are beautiful…

Southern Galsays:

another note…

The April issue of Gardens Illustrated (with your article) is available on ZINIO.COM for any one – no need to purchase a subscription.

just downloaded it and looking forward to reveling in its glory.


What a delicious post, fabulous – Thank you!

Southern Galsays:

oh my…. tulips
you can post as many as you can… never too many!

cant wait to see the new websites!

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