'Portofino' Tulip

When tulips bloom in Union Square,
And timid breaths of vernal air
Go wandering down the dusty town,
Like children lost in Vanity Fair;

When every long, unlovely row
Of westward houses stands aglow,
And leads the eyes to sunset skies
Beyond the hills where green trees grow;

Then weary seems the street parade,
And weary books, & weary trade:
I'm only wishing to go a-fishing;
For this the month of May was made.

-When Tulips Bloom
by Henry van Dyke

Portofino'Portofino,' meaning "Boggy Port," is named for an Italian seaside resort town near Genoa. It & one other tulip ('Princess Irene') were given to Granny Artemis & I by a local nurseryman, as spent potted flowers.

Since we didn't select these, & since they were to be planted in the wrong season out of pots instead of properly as autumn bulbs, they were placed together in an unimportant sunny location out by the road, then left to fend for themselves. They fended well enough, & two 'Portofinos' arose the following spring.

'Portofino' stems are about two feet high. For us it flowers before mid-April, though often defined as May-flowering. Ideally the blooms are large singles with overt ragged red flames, but these freebies produce blooms that are smallish.

They begin creamy-yellow but soon fade to ivory-white, with little dabs of red flames that become a bit more overt as the flower ages.

As it is fading from palest yellow to a more nearly pure white, it goes through a cloudy stage as the yellow fades unevenly; the second photo captures this middle-stage. The blue-flowering shrub framing the tulips is a west coast native, Santa Barbara Mountain Lilac.

Many fancy hybrid tulips weaken with each year, until they no longer flourish, but the Darwin hybrids tend to perennialize very nicely. They produce one big bloom per tall stem, usually sturdy enough to not be knocked over by normal degrees of wind & rainfall.


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