After having fallen head-over-heels in love with all things roses, I have now turned my attention to tulips. I have always admired tulips as beautiful and delicate plants but I became somewhat obsessed when, for the first time, I spied the Queen of Night tulip; a gorgeous deep maroon, almost black, bloom that just appealed to me. My love for this particular tulip was further cemented after reading ‘The Black Tulip’ by Alexander Dumas; a gorgeous historical novel opening with the public lynching in 1672 of the Dutch Grand Pensionary (similar to a modern-day Prime Minister), Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis. The city of Haarlem had set a prize of ƒ100,000 to the person who can grow a black tulip. The country’s citizens throw themselves wholeheartedly into the competition as a win will guarantee, fame, money and honour. The lives of the historical and fictional characters are cleverly interwoven to create a very memorable story…I highly recommend this book
Although tulips are largely associated with the Netherlands, they were, in fact, first cultivated in Persia as far back as the 10th century, only being introduced to Europe in the 16th century.
These delicate flowers come in a VERY wide range of colours grown from bulbs that bloom any time from early to late Spring, depending on the variety. The great thing about tulips is that, because they come in such a vast array of different colours, you’re sure to find a few that suit your garden even if you are working within a specific colour palette.
I chose three different tulips to start out with and will be planting them in front of the rhododendrons. The idea is that the huge, deep green leaves at the base of the rhodies will offset the vibrant and rich colours of the tulip beautifully. I can’t wait for Spring 2018 to see if my idea pays off !
Growing and Caring for your Tulips:
Tulips are fairly easy to grow as long as you treat them right. They are perennial flowers that love sun and well-drained soil and thrive best in areas that experience cold winters and relatively dry Summers.
The bulbs should be planted about 2 months before the first hard frosts are expected (you can get an idea of when the first frosts are due in your are from various websites like plantmaps). The first frosts are due in my area around mid-November so I’ll need to get my bulbs in within the next couple of days!
Planting and Maintaining:
Loosen the soil of the chosen bed with a garden fork to a depth of about 30cm and mix in a layer of compost. The bulbs will ‘suck’ in and store the nutrients for the growth period.
Space the bulbs about 8-10 cm apart at a depth of no less than 20cm.
When planting the bulb, ensure that the ‘pointy’ side is up, then cover with the soil and press down firmly.
The bulbs will need to be watered after planting to promote initial growth. Don’t deliberately water the bulbs after that as tulips don’t like their roots to get too wet and over-watering may lead to fungus and disease or cause the bulbs to rot.
Deadhead the tulips after they have flowered and allow the foliage to yellow for about 6 weeks before removing the bulbs and storing them for next season.
Storing removed bulbs:
Clean any excess soil off the bulbs and let them dry out thoroughly.
Store the dried bulbs in a tray or net bag in a warm, dark space that’s well-ventilated and at a temperature of between 18-20°C ready for next season.
A florist friend of mine let me in on a little secret: to increase the vase life of a tulip cut the stems diagonally, loosely wrap the top half of the cuttings in newspaper and let them stand in cool water for a couple of hours before re-cutting the stems again. You will get at least a week out of these tulips.
I’d love to hear your experiences of growing tulips. In the meantime,