Tulips: Special Spring Bedding and Tulip Colour Combinations

It was just the other day we were appreciating the fine spring weather, only to be greeted with the knowledge that a late frost is on its way. Despite the sharp shock to the system, there’s still plenty to be pleased with in the garden. It’s been an excellent year for spring bulbs in both the formal and informal gardens here at Aberglasney.

Spring bedding is one of our best displays. Most people would automatically think of summer bedding when bedding is mentioned, however, some of the very best displays happen in the spring season, not summer, in my opinion.

Bold coloured tulips in flower in the Pool Garden spring display at Aberglasney
Tulips and forget me not in the hot border in the Pool Garden display

Spring Bedding

It’s important to remember there’s a difference between winter and spring bedding. Often what’s sold as winter bedding only really comes into its own in the spring. This has been the case at Aberglasney where the combination of alabaster wallflowers and Tulips look wonderful now.

Every year, the real star of our bedding displays are the Tulips. They form the bulk of the display in the parterre, terrace, and kitchen garden. What’s great about them is their range of height, colour, and flowering times. There’s also a wide variety of flower shapes to choose from with singles, doubles, frilled, and parrot amongst many others. The large colour choice available also makes life much easier as there’s guaranteed to be one to suit your colour scheme.

Pastel tulips and Forget-me-nots in the Pool Garden at Aberglasney
Tulips and Forget-me-nots in the Pool Garden at Aberglasney

Beautiful Tulip Combinations

Tulips combine really well with other spring bedding plants such as Wallflowers, Pansies, Brunnera, and Bellis (ornamental daisies).

Pink Tulip 'Ollioules' and baby blue coloured Brunnera 'Jack Frost' at Aberglasney Gardens
Tulipa ‘Ollioules’ and Brunnera ‘Jack frost’

Wallflower are an excellent partner as they act as a brilliant ground cover before the Tulips come through and, as they have a completely different leaf and flower shape, they contrast very well. They’ll also add interest before and after the Tulips start. Buying them bare root in the early autumn is also great as they’re so much cheaper and are peat free. The only problem is that they can be damaged in very hard winters. The tulip combinations that worked well for us this year with the alabaster Wallflower is China Pink, Spring Green, Maureen (which is a marbled white), and Queen of the Night (pictured below).

Maroon coloured Tulipa 'Queen of the Night' and Wallflowers at Aberglasney Gardens
Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’ and Wallflowers
Pastel and deep purple tulips and wallflower in the Parterre in the Pool Garden at Aberglasney
Tulips and Wallflower in the Parterre at Aberglasney Gardens

Using Tulips in Summer Borders

If you don’t have room for a spring bedding display, another handy way of using Tulips is in your summer border. The Sunken Garden at Aberglasney has a traditional summer border full of herbaceous plants that start to bloom in early May – it’s a total horticultural haven in the summer season! We’ve managed to extend the season of interest by adding Tulips to the gaps in a colour combination that matches the early perennials that’ll be coming out later. As the Tulips finish, the new growth on the perennials disguises the dying foliage so there’s no mess. The colour combination in this area is pink, chocolate, and orange – it sounds terrible, but trust me, it looks great.

Bold Tulips and Aesculus pavia in the Sunken Garden at Aberglasney
Tulips and Aesculus pavia in the Sunken Garden


Tulips are beautiful flowers that’ll make a fine addition to any display, but their biggest asset lies in their wide range of colours as they can be matched with pretty much anything else. They’re also reasonably priced and will last for two or three years, or a lot longer if you’re lucky. Autumn is the best time to plant them – for my best tips on bulb planting, please visit my previous blog “Bulbs: Back-Breaking or a Pleasure to Plant” – but before you do, it is important to have a good look at them in flower when choosing your varieties so you can really tell which ones you like. Visiting parks and gardens are a great place to find ideas and inspiration, and as always, the RHS plant finder is a brilliant resource.

Yellow tulips in the Cloister Garden with parapet walkway behind. Aberglasney Gardens.
Tulipa in the Cloister Garden

Tips for the Week:

  • Get out to parks and gardens and enjoy the Tulips
  • Harden off indoor sown seeds
  • Dead head bulbs
  • Prune out any frost damage on shrubs
  • Sow hardy annuals outside