Hager's tulip

Hager's Botanical Tulip

"The tulips should be behind bars
like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth
of some great African cat."

-Sylvia Plath


Tulipa hageri can produce three to five lightly scented star-shaped blooms per stem, in April. Although their perfume isn't great, so many tulips are completely scentless, so that any scent at all provides an added intrigue.

The variety sold as 'Splendens' is generally a dark coppery red, but changeable in shade through the life of each bloom, becoming darker red as each blossom ages.

Hager's tulipThis native of the Eastern Mediterranean, chiefly in Greece, is named for Friedrich Hager (1822-1902), a Hanover botanist who was the first to collect it amidst the ruins of the ancient fortress of Deceleia on Mount Parnassus. How fascinating to imagine the Spartan warriors who quite possibly tended gardens of tulips, such as were, like hyacinths & narcissi, sacred to various gods & goddesses, & symbolized the death & rebirth of fertility daemons. Tulips are encountered in Minoan art, & were sacred to Athena.

Hager's Tulip is a very short botanical at only five to eight inches height, hugging the ground with slightly wavy strap-like leaves longer than the flower stems. The leaves occasionally have purplish edging.

Its status as a distinct species is greatly questioned. It is generally believed actually to be a color variant of T. orphanidea, making T. hageri & T. orphanidea synonyms. But Sir Daniel Hall thought it was T. orphanidea that was derived from T. hageri, by natural hybridization possibly with T. australis.

Hager's tulipWe planted ten 'Splendens' bulbs two to four inches deep in a tight area at the foot of our front door's staircase, near a Hino Crimson Azalea. Because they can be planted so shallowly, we planted them above a deeper level (eight inches down) five bulbs for Double Poet's Daffodil.

Ten more 'Splendens' were planted elsewhere & I managed to forget to jot down into the garden diary exactly where, so was surprised to find them the next spring poking out from amidst some Thalia daffodils, again layered above the deeper bulbs.

I don't know what in the world I was thinking, but in both locations I had layered ten ultra-short 'Splendens' over daffodils that got much taller. While doing a lot of autumn plantings, I must have been in some haste looking for spots for so many different sorts of bulbs. I can't remember my thought processes, but I seem to have thought only about their simultaneous bloom-time & how nice the white poet's daffodils would look with some copper-red tulips in their midst, failing to ponder the crocus-height of this tulip.

Fortunately the 'Spendens' adapted well, & poked their flowers right out of the narrow patch of daffodil-grass in order to place their coppery stars fully in the sun, with the daffodil blooms hovering overhead. But they still looked more oddly than appropriately matched. So in September 2004 I lifted the ones growing amidst the Double Poet's Daffodils, but could only find six of the ten bulbs.

I'll eventually move the ones among the Thalia daffs too, & will eventually have all the 'Splendins' in an area with extremely short groundcover rockroses. The third photo shows 'Splendens' in April 2005 poking up through an evergreen rockrose, a much more effective companion plant.


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