Planting English tulips in a Danish coastal garden

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Welcome arrival: after a wait of three years, these species tulips popped up.

Although we mostly miss them in flower, we consider them a gift to the garden

A last-minute winter weekend in Denmark to walk to the beach sunset, ride bikes to the harbour fish shop and to plant 100 or so English tulips.

We went for Bloms bulbs in the end, one of three or four favourite growers along with Avon and Peter Nyssen, plus Camilla Plum, a Danish organic supplier. I scour their sites and autumn catalogues in search of spring.

We ordered two species tulips (20 scarlet Lizzy and 10 humilis ‘Alba Caerulea Oculata’ – black-hearted, white-petalled) to join others that broke through the bank in numbers to much overexcitement. After three years we’d almost given up hope.

In addition, we planted tall classics: a 75cm white, a red and a warm apricot, in free-form clustered groups of 20, each spotted through the borders.

The plot here is woody, sandy, semi-wild by the seaside and we don’t want to over-garden it. They will join the snowdrops, the hepatica, the cowslips, the sprawling banks of wood anemone.

We mostly miss them in full flower depending on Danish weather and when we can get away. We don’t much mind. It is our gift to the garden. My mother-in-law will anyway send us photos. She lives just up the bay, a few kilometres away.

I love that they are seen by the resident red squirrels, hares and deer (though I love it a lot less when they dig them up). I think I see it a little like planting trees: you don’t have to be there when they are at their best, it is enough to know they will be beautiful.

That said, I have finally persuaded my wife to let us grow a few narcissi and tulips in pots on our London rooftop. It’s a first for us and I am grateful. I may be about to get the best of both my worlds.