Design Diary | Tulips
As we emerge from the dark biting chill of winter, what better way to brighten up a dull day, than with a cheerful display of tulips! A wonderful highlight of the gardening year, they allow an opportunity to create a cheerful colourful splash in the garden, during what can still be a relatively bleak time of year.
The advantage of the tulip, is its ability to dramatically transform a space, like a flamboyant fanfare, announcing the arrival of spring! It’s a great opportunity to play with colour and create a fresh new look each year.
Bulbs play an important role in our garden designs, enhancing planting schemes, and extending the performance of the garden. Tulips are a particular favourite, a fun time to experiment and play, producing inspiring fresh colour schemes, from pastel shades and cool tones, to hot reds and oranges, or a riot of clashing colours. There is a tulip to suit every location, from borders, to containers, or naturalised in grass. They have the ability to cheer up even the dullest of spaces, giving new life to a forgotten area, or a splash of pizazz to feature space in the garden.
For a matter of just a few weeks, the look and feel of an area can be transformed, allowing experimentation without long term commitment. With such a variety of different shapes and sizes available, from single and double flowers, cup, bowl or goblet-shaped, fringed, parrot or lily-flowered, there will be something to suit every garden.
When planting Tulips consider flowering times, to ensure combinations flower together, or to create a successional flowering scheme. We usually plant more than one type of tulip together, often in pairs or multiples, to create interest through use of shape, size, height and colour. Well-chosen pairings will produce striking colour combinations with breathtaking effect.
Tulips (Tulipa) are bulbous perennials, flowering between March and May, depending on variety, time of planting, and of course the weather! They range in height, with alpine varieties flowering from 15cm, and the more statuesque varieties at a great 75cm. Tulips are fully hardy and should be planted during October and November.
The term bulbous perennial is a bit misleading, as tulips will rarely perform well for more than one season. Most bedding tulips are unlikely to re-flower if left in the ground. Therefore, they are usually replaced each year, allowing opportunity for change. You can lift, dry, and store bulbs for replanting in the Autumn, however, flowering can still be hit and miss. They are propagated by division, and from seed, although they can take up to 4-7 years to flower from seed. For reliable flowering it is always best to replant with fresh bulbs each autumn, allowing you to experiment with a fresh new look each year.
Choose a spot in full sun, in fertile, well drained, neutral to alkaline soil. Tulips do not like wet soils, so avoid damp conditions, ensuring that alpine varieties have particularly good drainage. You may need to protect bulbs from pests, as squirrels, rabbits, and mice are quite partial to a freshly planted tulip bulb! Don’t forget to water after planting, up until the first threat of winter frost, and again when the first leaves emerge, through to flowering.
We always enjoy looking at new varieties available each year, planning bulb plant lists, and then excitement in spring when new displays burst into flower!