Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tulips (10 APR 2011)

In late autumn I planted about 200 bulbs, most of them were tulips which I bought from d-i-y stores, supermarkets and £1 shops. I am a little disappointed because all winter I had been dreaming about a spectacular spring show, I didn't realise that the daffodils would die before the early tulips and the early tulips would die before the late.  I couldn't imagine what the final result would look like because I would plant a set, thinking that my work was done, then see more bulbs on offer and couldn't resist, digging up the previous bulbs while planting the new. Even though I expected more than this, I am happy with what I've got.


Double & Fosteriana Tulips                                       Single Tulips

When I  first  encountered a bulb stuck on the end of my fork, I wasn't sure what to do without planting instructions, but a tip a gardener gave to me is to dig a planting hole at least three times the height of the bulb. Its common sense to place the bulb in the hole roots first, but with some bulbs you can't tell which way round they should go. It doesn't matter, because plants can sense gravity and the roots "know" that they should aim downwards. If you plant bulbs deeper, they will still grow, and the advantage is that you can plant annuals over the bulbs without disturbing them, saving you digging them up and storing them over the summer. The bulbs may start to naturalise or propogate, in which case you will need to dig them up every few years and separate them to improve their flowering performance.


The flower is already formed inside the bulb. Looking at a photo of a tulip in its early stages gives a clue, as you can see the flower head poking out of the ground intact, drawing its energy from carbohydrates in the fleshy surrounding layers. As the bulb grows, the leaves, exposed to sunlight, photosynthesise replenishing its food stores. This is why it's important to continue taking care of bulbs after the flower has died but while the leaves are still green if you want to recycle bulbs next year or leave them to naturalise.

Growing bulbs is foolproof, it's what I would recommend to a novice to provide them with guaranteed results which would encourage them to seek further challenges in the garden. I've heard people lament about underground slugs boring into their bulbs. I haven't experienced this yet even though I don't use slug pellets. I just hope that by planting so many bulbs, I haven't turned my garden into a haven for these pests. I have countless regular slugs and snails which eat leaves but so far this hasn't interfered with flowering. I do have problems with foxes digging up my bulbs and leaving deposits on my spring flower beds. Covering with netting till the leaves show helps.

Griegii Tulip                                                               Parrot Tulip

Tulips hybridise easily and there are several varieties. The early flowering types need to be exposed for a couple of months to cold (though frost-free) conditions to stress them into flowering. It's advised to plant them before the first frost in autumn, pressing the soil over them firmly with the heel of your boot to stop the frost getting in. Having said that, they are amazingly forgiving, I once found some forgotten hyacinths in a garage which had started to flower in their storage box.

After my first attempt at growing spring bulbs, I've learnt a few lessons that I'll take into account next year :
- Plant in threes for a better visual impact, rather than distributing bulbs evenly around the garden.
- Don't pick the tall varieties. They look gawky, fall over easily and don't last as long as smaller varieties (the petals on mine flopped down from their cup shape within a week).
Pay attention to flowering times to prolong the tulip season. Tulips come in early and late flowering varieties.

Tulip fields in Holland ....you can sing along if no-one's around .....

Tulips inspired Monet's masterpiece ....

If you would like to classify your tulips ....

What is a bulb? ...and other bulb FAQs, including an interesting article on twin scaling - multiplying your bulb stock by cutting and planting sections of bulbs.

Photosynthesis in the leaves replenishes the bulbs food stores ...
2n CO2              + 2n H2O      + photons         →     2(CH2O)n         +    2n O2
carbon dioxide    + water         + light energy    →    carbohydrate    +    oxygen

The Keel slug burrows underground to eat tubers and bulbs ...

How to store spring bulbs after they have flowered ...

©Copyright 2011 b-a-g. All rights reserved.

16 comments:

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

Good tips. I would add for those of us up north, the late flowering tulips are great some years to extend the season, but if the weather gets too hot, they melt. Our weather seems to go from winter to summer too fast. Spring is missing some years. Plus, they interfere if you want annuals in their spot after the leaves die back. The late bloomers leaves stay on too long.

NellJean said...

Beautiful! Every time I see somebody else's tulip successes, I decide once more that I too can grow tulips. I'm looking at the catalog again. It's too hot and humid here; voles will eat them; they will get tulip fire. The new puppy ate the last ones just I brought them to bud in pots. I think I can pull them off, just this once more.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Donna & NellJean - You make me feel guilty for being disappointed , when I guess I'm lucky to have some tulips at least.

DD said...

I love bulbs, and I too have lots of tulips bursting into bloom at the moment. I also planted some gladioli bulbs that i aquired froma £1 shop so fingers crossed they successful too. The best place I found for bulbs is Kevock Garden Bulbs, (they should turn up if you google them). They're a bit more expensive, but I got some muscari, alliums and wood anemone from them and so far they have all come up, and are good quality healthy plants. Looking forward to seeing more of your late tulips.

b-a-g said...

Thanks DD - I think you are going to enjoy becoming a member of the Blotanical community.

debsgarden said...

You are fortunate! Tulips really have to be treated as expensive annuals here, but I sometimes succumb and get a few. Only a single one, a fosteriania, has come back repeatedly through the years.

Donna said...

Great tips...I shall take note and I love the links...very helpful...

One said...

Your tulips are gorgeous! 200?!!! Wow!!! Thanks for sharing. We don't see such beauties here.

Alistair said...

Great to see your success with the Tulips b-a-g. Quite right to plant them deep, We are often told that Tulips deteriorate in the garden and you will be lucky to get two seasons out of them. Much more success when planted deeply, still not so very likely to be part of your permanent planting though, enjoy them while you can, shame about their leaves.

Stacy said...

I don't mean to keep singing the praises of the species tulips, but they are a little more reliable than the Darwin types at naturalizing--and they're much smaller bulbs, that don't have to be planted so deeply.

You still got a lovely display, it looks like to me! The frilliness of the double tulips works well with the waterlily shape of the fosterianas.

b-a-g said...

Deb - Maybe you could try putting tulips in pots like Alistair : http://www.aberdeengardening.co.uk/diary/index.php/2011/04/ceratostigma-willmottianum/

Donna & One - Thanks, hoped you enjoyed the video of tulips in Holland.

Alistair - I guess when I've finished experimenting, I'll opt for permanent planting.

Stacy - When I planted my bulbs in autumn, I had never heard of species tulips (they don't sell them at the supermarket) and never seen one till I read your post : http://microcosm-in-the-q.blogspot.com/2011/04/from-sidelines.html

Mark and Gaz said...

Great to see your success with the tulips, they make lovely displays in your garden! Tulips define April bulb flowers for me, unbeatable!

My garden haven said...

What a lovely garden! If only I could grow tulips here in my garden...I would probably have 200 of them too.
Rosie

b-a-g said...

Thanks Mark, Gaz and Rosie - Glad you like tulips too!

Katarina said...

Great tips! Wish I had planted my bulbs deeper - don't know how many I've destroyed...

b-a-g said...

Katarina - I've found that even if you fork through a bulb, it still grows back.

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