The Tulips have been flowering in my garden for at least a week now and seem to be a good couple of weeks earlier than last year but then so is everything else.
Every year I buy bulbs of a couple of different varieties for the pots which go on the patio or by the front door. I used to throw the bulbs after flowering but it seemed a terrible waste to me so about 4 years ago I started to plant the bulbs out in the border on the basis that they might do Ok but if they didn’t – well nothing was lost. As my soil has quite a bit of clay in it I was worried that the bulbs would rot over winter so the first year when I was planting out the Princess Irene bulbs I was careful to put little piles of gravel at the bottom of each planting hole!! As you can see in the photo above four years on the tulips are bulking up and doing well. I have noticed that the stems are generally shorter when the tulips are planted out in the borders than in pots.
I know a lot of people who throw their bulbs each year as they say they don’t do as well in the second year. I have to disagree mine do very well – yes some of the flowers may be a little smaller but I don’t think that matters at all. Plus slowly but surely my garden is filling with tulips and my spring display is getting better and better. It has now reached the point where the tulips I choose for the pots is influenced by what colours I want to add to the border the year after.
As well as colours I will be thinking about leaf size for next year and looking carefully at tulips I see in borders to see what sort of leaves they have. Why – well one of the tips I got at the garden school last week was that if you are going to plant tulips out in your garden then it is better to have tulips with small or narrow leaves so they don’t smother the perennials you are planting around. Apparently at Dixter they, like me, plant tulips up in pots to assess them and see what they are like and then decide where to plant them out the following year. Maybe the bulb sellers need to start thinking about describing/showing more than just the flowers?
I think next year I might add some more blowsy tulips like the Angelique above. I think they make a nice contrast to the tighter flowers. I have also noticed that I have a lot of burgandies, although they are all slightly different so I need to come.
Next autumn I will be adding Ronaldo (another burgundyish tulip) and Abu Hassan to the mix and Cairo (but this isn’t flowering yet so no pic). Abu Hassan will need careful placing I think. Though if Narcissus Cheerfulness is as late as this year it might help to counter the gaudiness!!!
The only problem I have encountered with growing tulips in the borders is the occasional case of tulip breaking virus which I wrote about last year . Last year I had to dig up a few of my burgundy fringed tulips and bin the bulbs to try and prevent the virus spreading. However, I have noticed when taking these photos that one of my Princess Irene’s has developed the virus (see left) which is a pity since these bulbs have been in the longest. Sadly I will have to dig up this bulb and bin it.
I will continue to add more tulips each year to the borders, in fact I think I prefer them in the borders to being in pots. But I am also starting to add other bulbs such as Camassias as these are a nice vertical contrast to the tulips and work well with grasses which are creeping into the garden more and more.