My family and I love tulip-planting time. We have many memories of going out on bright and chilly late November or early December days, digging into the dirt and placing our bulbs into the ground, along with our visions of colorful and elegant tulips coming up in the spring.
The big bulbs (and, of course, the gorgeous flowers) make tulips especially fun and easy for kids to plant and then watch emerge from the ground, sometimes among the first flowers to do so after the winter. Kids usually enjoy learning that the bulbs have most of the nutrients inside to create a flower (but still like a little boost at planting time – we use an organic bulb food.) This makes bulbs a great item to plant in school yards or public spaces because they don’t need a lot of watering or care while they’re growing.
Because we live in Sunset Magazine’s gardening zone 17 (USDA Zone 9), we refrigerate our bulbs for 6 weeks to simulate a Northern winter. And, because we haven’t had much success preserving our tulips from year to year (see the next paragraph for ideas about that), we always have some new tulips to try. Of course that’s a big part of the fun – poring over web sites and practically drooling over the local nursery displays. The chosen bulbs then go into the fridge for their hibernation. And, on an invariably cold, crisp day — in 6″ deep holes (aided by a simple bulb digger) and with a little organic fertilizer (the white stuff you see) — into the ground they go. We used sticks to mark different color bulbs while we were planning our planter boxes.
Because tulip bulbs are generally indicated to bloom early, mid or late spring, you may want to choose bulbs that bloom at about the same time (which we did, because we have a small planting area) or choose bulbs for continuous blooms. Heights are also estimated so that you can plant taller ones in the back of a display. Tulips tend to look best grouped, rather than in a line.
Want to know more about bulbs and planting? The Blooming Bulb site sells bulbs and offers more detailed tulip planting and storing instructions. The Plant Expert is a fabulous resource about choosing, planting, storing and growing bulbs and all kinds of plants. Another is Doug Green’s Flower Garden Bulbs, which sells bulbs as well. Colorblends (which offers more great planting information), Brent and Becky’s Bulbs and K. VanBourgondien and Sons also sell wonderful selections of bulbs throughout the year by mail order. I also recently found an article about storing bulbs for use the next year, which the writer says is a good idea in any garden where the bulbs will be planted over, not just our warm-winter gardens. I think we will try these new techniques this year!
So, what did we plant?
Come drool with us!
Of our four different tulips, one was brought back from two years ago, the lovely Daydream. A Darwin hybrid, the Daydream is a classically shaped tulips in a soft apricot color, with with a little color variation for interest. The flower height ranges from 20”-24”. I found the stem to be nice and sturdy, and the bulb a pleasing size and perfect color. Some of the flowers tended toward pale yellow tones. Daydreams open in the sun to reveal a black center.
Darwin Hybrids were originally cultivated by crossing single late Darwin and Cottage tulips with early Fosteriana tulips to produce beautiful results.
Salmon Impression is another in the sherbet-like color range that I like. A Darwin Hybrid, like the Daydream, we’re told the Salmon Impression is especially sturdy and does well in various climates and conditions, as well as producing large, pretty flowers on strong stems that reach 20-24″.
I think a light or dark accent color is nice among the tulips. This year we went for the light and creamy colored Ivory Floradale. It’s another Darwin Hybrid (I guess we know what we like) and is said to grow to 20-22″ on a strong stem.
We usually try to plant one especially exotic tulip – one with frilly edges, or flames of color shooting through it, or a Viridiflora, a tulip type that offers streaks of stem-like green along its flower. This year’s is the China Town. Writes Bissett Nursery: “Flaring petals of pink, edged in cream streaked with a moss green. Artistic and unusual in design. China Town also has especially attractive foliage – dark green leaves with white borders.” This flower is said to grow 14-20″ and is in its own pot in a very visible spot.
Photos: Daydream: Susan Sachs Lipman; Salmon Impression: Botanus; Ivory Floradale: Van Bourgondien Nursery; China Town: Bissett Nursery. All others: S. Lipman
More Tulipmania from Slow Family:
Tulipmania 2010, Part One (Lots of tulip photos)
Tulipmania 2010, Part Two (More tulip photos)
Tulipmania: One Bubble I can Really Get Behind