May is the month of the “Flower Moon” named by the Native Americans to mark the season of blooming plants. Matthew Ross, the multi-talented head of Continuing Education at Longwood Gardens has shared some pictures and I am inspired to explore arranging with tulips which are my very favorite flower in May.

In 17th century Holland a single tulip bulb could be more valuable than gold. During this Dutch Golden Age, tulips were cultivated and botanists learned that a broken bulb could lead to a new variety, often with variegated flower petals and ruffled or uneven petals. These exotic bulbs were valuable in trade and on occasion could cost more than a house! Today the Dutch continue to hybridize and grow vast numbers of tulips which are sold around the world.

In a classic Flemish style design the tulips are always a star. The Flemish arrangements hold a wide variety of flowers from various seasons and tulips are often open or in different stages of bloom

My modern interpretation of ‘tulipomania” uses a display of red and yellow parrot tulips cascading over a vase with a curve of pussy willow branches to show off the blooms.

Blue sky and branches just about to burst with green foliage are inspiration for a glass vase filled with spring hyacinth, pussy willow, and orange tulips.

Caring for cut tulips requires a little extra care. Whether from the market or the garden, wrap the stems vertically in paper for at least a few hours to encourage the stems to be straight.

Tulips are heliotropic and will grow toward a light source. Put them in front of a window and watch the flower heads arch toward the window. Here they are used in a pot et fleur which combines potted plants and fresh flowers. The tulips are in a glass vase placed among the plants.

One of the most fun things about tulips is that they grow after cutting. Here you can see the progression. Day 1 is mostly green with flower heads standing tall. Day 3 the flower heads arch gracefully down the vase. By Day 5 they go into to a tall glass vase with a narrow neck to support the drooping stems, sort of “assisted living” which helps them to last a bit longer.

A fun thing to do with tulips is to reflex the petals and give the flower a full, open look. Just take your thumb and press on the back side of the petals and you get a new look for your tulip.

Purple and yellow are complementary colors, across from each other on the color wheel. Just a few purple tulips give a strong accent to this field of yellow narcissus and yellow tulips.

Here the phoenix design is done in all spring yellows, daffodils, tulips, and forsythia. The addition of just a few purple daisy mums accents the yellow and brings the arrangement to life. The phoenix design uses a circular base with a triangular form bursting from the center of the base.

One more gorgeous field of tulips at Longwood Gardens and our little Oliver guarding over my streamlined display of tulips by the front door. He will welcome you when you arrive. Thank you, Matthew, for the lovely tulip pictures from Longwood Gardens.