Design, In the Garden, Travel Notes

Chasing Tulips in Sussex and Surrey, Part 2

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It was an article seven years ago in my favorite English magazine, Gardens Illustrated, that served as the inspiration for this year’s annual spring visit to England, specifically to Sussex and Surrey. The magazine didn’t overstate the truth when noting that “Arundel Castle’s Tulip Festival provides one of the country’s most spectacular floral extravaganzas.” With 40 acres of gardens and grounds (a representative sampling of which I was able to capture) I’m faced with the wonderful conundrum of how to do it justice, where to start…and when to close.

The setting alone is impressive enough! A castle in the grandest of terms, home to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, a title that has been important in English history as far back as Henry the VIII (you may remember that the Duke of Norfolk was a significant player in the intrigue and politics of this King’s court; no small matter that two of his nieces, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, were wives of Henry VIII …which is when things got a bit complicated).

From mid-April to mid-May, the current Duke’s estate grounds become a breathtaking palette of these springtime jewels, set against and amongst the bravura backdrop of gardens, castle and cathedral. This year, 75,000 tulips (representing over 50 varieties) were planted: greeting you on the grassy castle ramparts, Tulip ‘Oxford Red'(a fiery Darwin hybrid) is a striking contrast to the vast gray stone…

Carpeting meadows through which paths have been mown gives new meaning to “tiptoeing through the tulips…”

As backdrops to undulating vast lawns with a sweeping crescent of brilliant aubergine beauties…

Repeating the crenellation of the castle’s walls…

Accentuating the curves of the three acre grassy labyrinth, where red Darwin tulips contrast brilliantly with white narcissus as part of the vast Collector Earl’s Garden area…

Drawing your eye to statuary atop a knoll outside the Collector Earls’ gardens…

Bordering the paths that lead to the Kitchen, Wildflower, and other gardens.

It’s not often that one has a chance to witness “designing with tulips” on such a scale! That is why I chose this theme as the first post upon my return. And these images well illustrate some prized tips from head gardener, Martin Duncan…

  • Fabulous in drifts, tulips are  even more stunning when combined with other bulbs, annuals, and perennials in varying heights to create tiers of commanding color.
  • To create texture and interest in a swath of tulips, underplant them with shorter spring bulbs in the same color. 
  • Vary the heights in large clumps of tulips to prevent the military “guardsman” look.
  • Tulips have such a range of colors and shades that they rarely clash, so be bold in your color selections and enjoy trying out different combinations…a hallmark of the gardens at Arundel Castle.
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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

11 thoughts on “Chasing Tulips in Sussex and Surrey, Part 2

  1. Another breathtaking view, you did both the estate and tulips justice in this edition!

  2. AND, that’s how “fairy tales” were inspired I’ll wager…just…well, dreamy!! TY for photos & narrative…*sigh* franki

    1. “Sigh”, yes!! And such a pleasure to share this rare opportunity with you and the rest of my Private Newport family. XB

  3. You DID do it justice Bette, but I can only imagine what it must have been like to experience it in person. I hope to get there one day. Thank you for this marvelous tour in the meanwhile…

    1. So glad to hear from you…and I do hope you’ll “get there” one year, sooner than later.
      But first, Newport…I’ll be in touch. xB

  4. I didn’t know what to expect upon the first picture and wasn’t sure but as I opened up the story book it’s magnificent. This place truly has the wow factor. Thank you for this visual presentation. It really does put tulips in a whole new light.

    1. Truly, Keith, I’m still in awe of what I experienced in the world of tulips! xB

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