insideKENT Magazine Issue 49 - April 2016 - Page 87

VISITKENT tulip fever at walmer castle and gardens One of the oldest cultivated tulips, Duc van Tol Red and Yellow, is amongst the bulbs planted by gardeners at Walmer Castle as they embark on a new scheme to showcase the history of this much-loved spring bloom. The tulip flower in its native form is usually single coloured, sometimes with a stem so short that it appears to spring directly from its leaves. When this hardy bulb travelled from the Ottoman courts of Constantinople hundreds of years ago, the beauty and variety of its flowers brought the promise of the wealth of exotic lands. The Turkish were notable gardeners and along with the tulip they cultivated and hybridised hyacinths, narcissi, pinks and lilies which were later imported into Europe, some during the crusades. The tulip made its way to England in 1577. 2016 will see the largest number of varieties ever planted in the castle’s gardens, spanning nearly 400 years and offering continuous colour from April through into the summer. Single specimens of the oldest and most rare varieties will be displayed in pots in Walmer’s historic glasshouses, with black drapery creating an eye-catching backdrop for the stunning blooms, akin to the paintings of the old masters. Walmer Castle was built by Henry VIII in 1539-40 as part of a chain of coastal forts. From the beginning of the 18th century it became the residence of the Lord Ward of the Cinque Ports 87 and starting being adapted to a domestic role. The most significant changes in relation to the gardens took place under William Pitt the Younger at the turn of the 19th century and it is now an essential stop on a tour of Kent’s best garden attractions. Walmer Castle and Gardens is open seven days a week from Easter until November 2016.