Greig's Tulip 'Chopin'
"Like a tulip, my robe I'll rend,
and come forth, O Padmani,
as thy beloved."
-Ghulam Rasool Mir,
Tulipa greigii 'Chopin' bears a cultivar name after Frederic Francois Chopin (1810-1849).
Chopin honored just such garden flowers in his "Raindrop Prelude," & Chopin's personal & amazing gardens outside Warsaw remain world famous to this day. So few have ever been so deserving of having a flower named in their honor.
In color this variety is creamy-white to lemon-yellow, with streaking tints of crimson, plus there are red streaks on the blue-green leaves which are themselves decorative well before its late March & April blooms.
We started with only three 'Chopin' tulips plus four 'Oratorio' mixed in a larger drift of 'Red Riding Hood,' all of which are greigii tulips. 'Orotorio' blooms two weeks ahead of 'Red Riding Hood,' & 'Chopin' three weeks ahead, being in full flower by the last week of March, the others mainly in April.
The three bulbs we started with already had offsets. In autumn we lifted all the greigii bulbs to move to a sunnier location, & were suprised that between one autumn & the next the bulbs had greatly multiplied.
The first two flower photos are from March 2003 in the previous location, & the third photo shows considerble increase in the new location late in March 2004.
The species is one of the largest-flowered & with more cultivated varieties than any of the botanicals. It is native of Turkestan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan & Uzbekistan, with color variants over its range that have helped to develop many brightly colored garden forms.
Furthermore, it can be hybridized with kaufmanniana "water-lily type" tulips, further broadening the range of varieties. At some point it seems to me that they should cease to be regarded as botanical tulips but only additional hybrid varieties, but they are all still cataloged as botanicals.
In almost any array of species tulips, the greigii cultivars will stand out. It is a miniature as to height, the eight inch brownish leaves bending so that they grow nearly horizontal to the ground, & in themselves quite showy.
Most greigii tulips have red-striped leaves; 'Chopin' has the stripes fainter than most, & the stripes fade away by the time the whole drift is in full flower. Above the leaves, large blooms on short stems rise no more than a foot. The flowers are big-horned cups that on sunniest days open into stars with as much as a five-inch spread.
They open widest in fullest sun, but bloom just as nicely in light shade, where the flowers may retain a somewhat closed upright appearance as in the topmost late March portrait. The second photo also from late March shows the fully open appearance that occurs on a good sunny day, showing the zones of color in the throat.
Even on rainy or overcast days when they might not open all the way, they're perfectly gorgeous. They also stand up to a hard rain better than some of our other species tulips, as a few of the others get beaten down by rainy weather.
The species was first described in 1877 by Eduard August von Regel (1815-1892), director of the St Petersburg Botanical Garden. He named it for Sir Samuel A. Greig (1735-1788), shown in the engraving at the right.
Sir Samuel was born in county Fife in Scotland. He served in the British Navy & fought in battles against France & in the New World against Cuba, but he made his real mark on naval military history during the reign of Catherine the Great.
In 1764 he joined the Russian Navy & fought battles against the Turks & the Swedes, becoming a Knight Admiral still remembered as "the Father of the Russian Navy." The mezzotint portrait of Sir Samuel Admiral Greig here at the right is by Dmitri Levitsky, first published in 1778.
'Chopin' like other cultivars of Greig's Tulip naturalizes easily. It is a good choice for containers or indoor forcing, ideal for rockeries or fronts of borders.
It takes hardly any care, & responds very well toour region's wet springs & dry summers.
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