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The sun shone brightly yesterday, and my tulips were happy to finally come out to play! The earliest in my garden this year are the Emperors, also known as Fosteriana tulips. Because I ignored the note on my August calendar to order bulbs NOW, I missed the opportunity to get the exact varieties I’d hoped for and settled instead for a mix of twenty-five bulbs. (The same note appears in August of this year’s calendar. Will I learn from my mistake and actually do it this year? Time will tell!)

The mixture includes six cultivars. The very first to bloom, actually about ten days earlier than any of the others, on one of our rare sunny days in April, was ‘Red Emperor’:

‘Red Emperor’ may be one of the most used landscaping tulips.

‘Red Emperor’ boasts a huge flower, about five inches from its yellow base to the tip of its brilliant red petals. Its petals are long and narrow, and it can look rather flopsy-mopsy when it’s fully open.

I like the brown flaming at the base inside ‘Red Emperor’s’ cup!

The anthers of ‘Red Emperor’ are purple!

My ‘Red Emperors’ grew between fifteen and eighteen inches high. There are seven of them in the mixture.

Another seven of the mix are ‘Orange Emperor’.

‘Orange Emperor’ worshiping the sun!

These tend to bloom a little later than others in the Emperor family. Its flower is smaller than the red, averaging between three and four inches, but about the same overall height, averaging seventeen inches. Its color is a medium orange tint, described by Scheepers as “carrot-orange”. It has a yellow base, and there is some yellow flaming in the petals, along with some thin, nearly scarlet striations. Before opening, some of the petals feature a bit of green. I really like this one!

‘Orange Emperor’, wide open, showing off its black-brown anthers and yellow center

A welcome surprise–three of the ‘Orange Emperor’ bulbs sent up two flower stalks, and one has three!

Two for the price of one!

‘Yellow Purissima’ is also a later blooming Emperor. This tulip is solid, sunny yellow. If you want a tulip that practically screams cheerfulness, this is the one for you!

Nothing subtle about ‘Yellow Purissima!”

‘Yellow Purissima’ has a three inch flower and averages about fourteen inches in height in my garden. Tulips do continue to grow in height while they’re blooming (and even after they’re cut and in a vase!), though, so they may eventually attain their advertised height of sixteen to eighteen inches. There were three of these in my collection; one gave me two flower stalks.

Sunshine in a flower!

There is only one ‘White Emperor’ in my mix. Like its yellow and orange siblings, it is a later bloomer. Its three and a half inch bloom opened a creamy white with a pale yellow base. As it ages, it should change to “glistening white”, as per John Scheepers. It is seventeen inches tall.

‘White Emperor’
The gray anthers and yellow center of ‘White Emperor’– the same color scheme I recently chose for a stairway redo!

Alas! There is but one of my favorite of this mixture, ‘Flaming Purissima’! I grew this two years ago and really liked it.

The gorgeous pink feathering in ‘Flaming Purissima’ is just to die for!

The flower of ‘Pink Purissima’ is three and a half inches tall, with an overall height of sixteen inches. My previous experience with this cultivar shows there is great variety in the intensity of the color and shading. Some are very deep pink, while others are more ivory, with only very subtle degrees of pink striations.

Inside ‘Pink Purissima’

One variety of this mixture is so far MIA! I have not seen hide nor hair of ‘Albert Heijn’, a “deep rose-pink with a purple sheen and paler pink edges”. I very much hope that this one lone bud, still tightly shut, will turn out to be ‘Albert Heijn’. It’s growing in the same area as the rest of the Emperors, and seems to have a pink tint, so maybe? (UPDATE: It’s another ‘Flaming Purissima’, so I got two of those and no ‘Albert Heijn’.)

Maybe ‘Albert Heijn’? (Nope; it is another ‘Flaming Purissima’)

Here is an interesting tidbit about Emperor tulips that I found on a gardening sales site called Harvesting History:

The Emperor Tulips have all descended from Tulipa Fosteriana a wild Species Tulip native to Central Asia. They are among the earliest tulips to bloom in the spring. Their blossoms are some of the largest in the Tulip family. The Emperor Tulips are, perhaps, the most important of all tulip varieties, because they have been used in more hybridizing projects than any other group of tulips.They are a commanding presence in any garden.

You can read a bit more about the history of tulips on that page if you are interested.

A few other tulips are currently blooming in my little tulip patch: ‘Yellow Pomponette’, ‘American Dream’, and ‘Passionale’. I will try to write about those soon. In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed all of the players in this virtual concerto of Emperor tulips! (Apologies to Beethoven!)