Tulip species are usually small growing or miniatures and come back year after year. They can be grown in pots, in beds and borders, under deciduous shrubs or trees. Many look at home in the rockery, slate or scree garden. They grow well on slopes, in raised beds or naturalised in drifts in grass.
These tulips grow in nature on rocky slopes or in sandy and clay deserts in very dry conditions once the flowering is over and they have died down. We should therefore plant them in a well draining soil and in areas of the garden that receive very little water during the summer. The perfect way to achieve good drainage is to raise the soil above its actual level and mix in sharp sand or grit. Excessive irrigation should be avoided.
When we plant species tulips in containers it is best to fill the bottom of the pot with some pieces of broken clay pots first. This will help the drainage. Then add some soil and cover this with a layer of sharp sand. Plant the tulips close together but they should not touch. Cover the bulbs with soil so that the bulbs are at least 12.5 cm (4in) deep.
Wild tulips originate from the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Iran, Turkey, the Caucasus, China and the Himalayas. As they are becoming more and more popular here follows a list of those available for growing in the garden.
1. TULIP APELDOOORN
Tulip Apeldoorn is a Darwin Tulip. It grows strong stems, and upwards. The colours are usually solid, such as red, orange, yellow, rose or white. Lately mixed coloured Darwin tulips have been bred for us to use in the garden. They make a great impact when planted in bunches or en masse on their own or together with wall flowers. Tulip Apeldoorn is also a tulip that once grown in the right draining soil comes back year after year. Don’t expect the same big flowers it carries the first year. But once established can produce flowers for many years.
HEIGHT: 55 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: April/May/Darwin hybrid.
COLOURS: red, yellow, orange , orange-red, peach yellow.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: good with wall flowers.
VARIETIES TO GROW:
Apeldoorn Dream: large orange and yellow flowers.
Beauty of Apeldoorn: golden yellow flushed with orange.
Golden Apeldoorn: yellow.
Apeldoorn Elite : red and orange.
Blushing Apeldoorn: peach yellow.
SOME OTHER DARWIN TULIPS:
Beauty of Spring: creamy yellow and orange.
Burning Heart: primrose yellow with some red.
Design Impression: salmon pink.
Hakuun: cool white.
Light and Dreamy: reddish purple and violet pink edges.
2. TULIP BALLERINA AGM
Tulip ballerina AGM is a Lilly flowered tulip which has elegant flowers with gracefully pointed re-flexed petals. Lilly flowered tulips are generally long stemmed and weather resistant. They form excellent bedding plants.
HEIGHT: 50 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: early May.
COLOUR: soft orange with a hit of lemon yellow.
SCENT: delightfully scented.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: other strong shaped plants.
SOME OTHER LILLYFLOWERED TULIPS:
Ballade AGM, soft violet-mauve with a white edge.
China Pink AGM, rose pink with a white base.
Holland Chic, ivory white with pink.
White Triumphator, AGM, pure white and super elegant.
3. TULIP PURISSIMA AGM
Tulip Purissima is a tulip from the Fosteriana group. These tulips have large flowers on strong stems and are excellent for large scale bedding displays. They flower fairly early.
HEIGHT: 45 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: March and April.
COLOUR: cream white.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: white garden scheme or together in large drifts.
SOME MORE FOSTERIANA TULIPS:
Candela AGM, oblong shaped pure yellow.
Orange Emperor AGM, carrot orange with yellow centre.
4. TULIP CHINA PINK AGM
China Pink is another elegant shaped lily flowered tulip which is also an excellent cut flower for the house.
HEIGHT: 45 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: early May.
COLOUR: soft rose pink with a white base.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: other strong shaped plants.
OTHER QUALITY: excellent cut flower.
5. TULIP TOUCAN
Tulip Toucan is a multi flowering tulip producing several flowers on one stem. The tulips of this group are excellent for bedding.
HEIGHT: 35 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: May.
COLOUR: soft white with a flush of cherry red.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: in the white garden.
OTHER MULTIFLOWERING TULIPS:
Inferno, bright red flowers.
Purple Bouquet, deep purple flowers.
Wallflower, dark maroon red.
Weisse Berliner, ivory white.
6. TULIP GRAND PERFECTION
Tulip Grand Perfection is a mid-season tulip. These tulips bridge the gap between the early and late tulips. It is sturdy and resistant to adverse weather. Grand Perfection is very effective for garden display with it almost ancient appearance.
HEIGHT: 45 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: late April to May.
COLOUR: very soft yellow with red markings all over.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: in between other garden plants.
OTHER TRIUMPH TULIPS:
Calgary AGM, Ivory-white.
Garden Party AGM, milky white and carmine-pink.
7. TULIP RED RIDING HOOD AGM
Tulip Red Riding Hood AGM belongs to the Greigii group of tulips. They have all brilliantly coloured flowers and beautifully mottled leaves. The shorter varieties of the Greigii group are ideal for pots, window boxes, rockeries and beds and borders.
HEIGHT: 20 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: March to early April.
COLOUR: vivid scarlet with a black base.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: mixed with other plants and low growing annuals.
SPECIAL FEAUTURES: attractive leaves and suitable for pots and window boxes.
OTHER GREIGII TULIPS:
Calypso AGM, tomato red with a thin yellow edge.
Easter Surprise AGM, deep lemon with some orange.
Plaisir AGM, carmine red edged with sulphur yellow.
Toronto AGM, multi-flowered, vermilion-rose.
8. TULIP COLUMBINE
Tulip Columbine is a Rembrandt Tulip. Rembrandt Tulips are historical varieties that have striped or broken colours on the flowers marked with bronze, black or red – purple on a red, white or yellow back ground.
HEIGHT: 40 -50 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: May.
COLOUR: heliotrope purple and white.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: best as individual groups or on a purple and white border.
OTHER REMBRANDT TULIPS:
Angelique AGM, soft pink shades and pastels of pink.
Carnaval de Nice AGM, red flames on a white background.
Orange Princess AGM, purple flames on a marigold orange background.
Red Princess AGM, purple flames on a blood red background.
9. TULIP DORDOGNE AGM
Tulip Dordogne is a single late flowering tulip. They are the result of a combination of Darwin and Cottage type tulips. This modern tulip stands tall and strong and is perfect for mixed planting, bedding and a perfect cut flower for the house.
HEIGHT: 65 cm tall.
FLOWER TIME: May.
COLOUR: soft claret and pink with a hint of orange.
PLANT ASSOCIATION: best as individual groups or in mixed planting.
SPECIAL FEATURES: it is one of the longest flowering tulips.
OTHER SINGLE LATE TULIPS:
Angels Wish AGM, large pure white flowers with green yellow flushes.
Dreamland AGM, cream white with flushes of rose pink.
Maureen AGM, marble white.
Queen of the Night, deep velvet maroon.
This tulip selection is an individual choice but also a testimony of a group of tulips that have stood the test of time. Each of us is encouraged to develop an own taste by choosing their most liked garden tulips with a singleness of mind.
HOW TO PLANT AND CARE FOR TULIPS
1. THE TULIP BULB NEEDS A WELL DRAINING SOIL
Where ever we plant tulips we have to make sure that the bulb is not growing in a soil full of water and moist. The ground must be well draining. We therefore mix a heavy soil with sharp sand or grit and compost.
We also mix in some fish blood and bone meal, which is an organic fertilizer that releases its strengths slowly over time and helps the bulb to build up additional vigour.
2. DEPTH OF PLANTING A TULIP BULB
In the wild the tulip bulb grows as deep as half a meter. In our moderate cold climates planting a tulip bulb 15 cm deep is more than enough. In fact it is often recommended to plant a bulb two or three times its size. When we plant with the help of a small hand held trowel the length of the trowel is about the depth we are looking for when planting tulips.
3. TIME OF PLANTING
Tulip bulbs should ideally experience cold weather for a while for the roots to strengthen and to do well later on. Planting a tulip bulb 6 weeks before any severe frost is ideal. However we can plant tulips from September to November or even later if the bulb is firm and healthy.
4. CARE OF TULIPS
Once we see tulips growing with their pointed leaves coming out of the ground we just don’t need to do anything anymore for the moment. Our hard work from planting during the autumn is now paying off. The tulip will flower and under normal cool spring conditions, it should do so for about four to six weeks. If there is a warm spring the flowering period is shorter. If the spring is cooler the tulip flower lasts longer.
Our work starts again after flowering. It is important to let the leaves attached to the bulbs wither away so that the goodness in those leaves flow back into the bulb. We then have a choice: or to dig the tulip up, let it dry and clean the roots and the dead leaves, storing the dry bulbs in a dry airy place.
We can also leave the tulips in the ground to flower again next year. They will do so if the soil is well draining and the bulbs have a chance to sit in a dry soil during the summer. It does help the bulb if the summers are warm. In September the bulb will starts to re-grow roots and a sprinkling of a handful of fish blood and bone meal on the soil they are growing under is good enough for the fertilize to slowly go down and reach the roots later on to slow release their fertilizing capacities.
Tulips don’t naturalize as good as daffodils or other bulbs. Because the special condition under which they grow in the wild are difficult to mimic in cooler climates. Old favourites like Tulip Apeldoorn come back year after year when the conditions are right. Planting tulip bulbs in sandy soil increases the chances of naturalisation dramatically.
5. HOW THE DUTCH GROWERS GROW AND MULTIPLY TULIPS
The tulip bulb we buy to plant in the garden starts its life when the grower removes the flower heads from the bulbs in the field. By doing so all the energy the tulip plant creates flows back into the bulb which produces small bulbs attached to the large central one.
The plant is lifted during the summer and the green growth has withered and the roots are removed. The small bulbs are collected and put aside. The large ones are sorted and packed ready to be sent and to be used for the tulip cut flower industry or to be sold and planted in gardens and parks. Over 70% of the tulip bulbs are destined to become a cut flower.
We can enjoy tulips in the house all year round. The growers manage to produce fresh tulips any time of the year by subjecting the bulbs to a period of cold for 6 weeks. After that the tulip is tricked into thinking it is spring and produces flowers.
The small bulbs collected during harvest are replanted in autumn and will produce a new crop of sellable tulip bulbs next year.
TIPS FOR TULIPS IN THE GARDEN
HOW CAN WE USE TULIPS IN THE GARDEN?
What tulips are not: structural plants such as trees, hedges and evergreens which are visible every time of the year. Instead: tulips provide colour, excitement and admiration when planted with care in between those other plants or on their own. Their time of interest is when spring is well on its way.
Here are some ideas of how to use tulips in the garden to their best effect.
UNDERPLANT DECIDUOUS GARDEN PLANTS AND SHRUBS WITH TULIPS OR OTHER BULBS
Deciduous garden plants will grow leaves when most tulips have finished flowering, creating the best environment a tulip can wish for slowly withering away in a relative dry soil. This way of growing is a perfect solution for having tulips in a small garden where space is at a premium.
GROW TULIPS IN POTS ON THEIR OWN OR TOGETHER WITH SPRING FLOWERING PLANTS LIKE WALL FLOWERS AND / OR VIOLAS / POLYANTHUS / BELLIS OR ANY OTHER FLOWERS
Pots can be set on the patio in full view from the house or in between other plants in the garden. Once the tulips have finished flowering, bulbs and plants can be changed for summer flowering annuals.
GROW LATE FLOWERING TULIPS IN GROUPS IN THE GARDEN TOGETHER WITH WALL FLOWERS
Wall flowers are perfect plants to grow together with tulips in the garden. Their colours and scent are especially attractive during mid or late spring.
GROW TULIPS IN DRIFTS TO NATURALIZE IN TALL GRASS OR ON THE EDGE OF WOODLAND
Not all tulips naturalize well. Those which are closest to their original natural parents are best. Plant them a little deeper than normally advised and at the right distance (5cm) from each other to give space to grow and multiply. Tulip species naturalize usually well.
GROWING TULIPS IN A SMALL GARDEN
In a small garden we can grow tulips in between other garden plants. There will never be place for many tulips in a small garden but aim for small bunches here and there, where they are visible from the house or when going in and out. A few tulips planted together along the front path will always be seen at least twice a day and look very cheerful.
GROWING TULIPS IN SMALL POTS TO PLANT OUT LATER IN THE GARDEN IN SPRING TO FILL ANY GAPS
We can plant tulips in small pots up to Christmas to overwinter in a cold frame or outdoors and to plant later in spring in the garden or pots to fill in any gaps in between the other garden plants.
PLANTS THAT LOOK GREAT PLANTED TOGETHER WITH TULIPS
It all depends on the length of the tulip. Low growing tulips such as Red Riding Hood look best with low growing seasonal annuals such as Polyanthus or Bellis and are probably better tucked away under deciduous plants like Hydrangeas. Taller growing tulips like Tulip Apeldoorn show their height in between wall flowers. Both can be grown in empty spaces among other shrubs and perennial plants. Sometimes it looks good to have tulips growing through plants to give some extra colour. Low growing euonymus is a perfect plant through which bulbs can grow.
When growing tulips in pots all sorts of interesting combinations can be made. We can use annuals, other bulbs and even small shrubs such as Skimmia japonica. The combinations are endless.
TIME OF FLOWERING
Apart from the differences in height we should consider the time of flowering as well. The time span from flowering tulips runs from early spring to early summer. So we have to decide when the colours are needed, where and with which other plants the will grow. Who said gardening was easy? Maybe gardening is more complicated than people think but it is surely an outlet for individual (artistic) expression.
How more the spring progresses the more colourful the garden becomes. Tulips can follow the early grown snow drops, daffodils, crocus and grape hyacinths.
TULIPS AND COLOUR SCHEMES
To create interesting and mouth watering colour combinations must be one of the highest achievement and satisfaction for any gardener. The reality is that there is no general rule.
Everybody has to follow his or her own taste and create the colour scheme they fancy. The late Christopher Lloyd was one of the greatest gardeners in Britain and created flamboyant coloured planting schemes.
He single handed liberated gardeners from the idea that certain flowers should never be grown together because of their clashing nature. What we have to remember is that strong colours attract the eye while softer pastel colours create a more distant feel.
In small gardens pure yellow, red or white are very much pleasing to the eye. But placing a strong red in between soft colours in the distance is destroying the picture. Like Christopher Lloyd all successful gardeners who created great gardens did so with a singleness of mind putting THEIR idea into practice. They are great examples to follow.
TULIP SHAPES AND FORMS
Tulips come in many different shapes and forms. Some are single others double. The names of the different classes tell something about them.
Their shape and form should inspire us to plant them there where they can be seen and show their best attributes.
TULIP LEAVES AND GROWTH
Tulip leaves should not be disregarded as being not important in garden design. Some are really attractive on their own.
We start to notice tulips once the first growth appears through the ground. Although we don’t give that event a lot of thought, that first view of some growth has a tremendous impact on us: we know they are coming.
They brought their existence already to our attention, which we register in our minds. Now and then we will notice their progress until we have this fleeting thought of: “Are they forming flower buds?” And those flower buds when shown are the next step in our expectation.
Some gardeners get even impatient, and like children can’t wait to see the first tulip flower. The flower buds grow slowly in something better and better: we can notice the first stripes of colour in the green compaction. Then it opens fully on a warmer spring day.
TULIPS GROWN AS CUT FLOWERS
Around 70% of all the tulip bulbs grown in Holland are later used to grow flowers for cutting and to be sold all over the world any time of the year. I believe it is the second most popular cut flower after the rose.
The Dutch and any other tulip grower can deliver these beautiful blooms all year round by creating a winter cold environment for weeks and keeping those bulbs at low temperatures, tricking the bulbs to believe it is winter. The flowers are usually packed with the flower buds closed and quickly shipped around for us to buy a fresh bunch of tulips.
CARING FOR TULIPS IN THE HOME
As soon as we have bought the tulips it is best to put them straight into water with packaging and all after arriving home to give them a chance to take up as much water as possible.
Cut the stems in an angle.
Use tepid water from the tap. Change water frequently. Don’t use too much water.
Tulips dislike warmth so place them in a cool spot in the house.
Note: the tulips we buy continue to grow a couple of centimetres after we have put them in the vase. Because of this extra length they often become lax and the flowers sort of droop a little. There is a trick to avoid this and to stop this process of growth by pricking a small hole with a needle in the stem just under the flower head. If despite this or if one forgets to do this, the tulips still look a bit weak, make the stems shorter and roll the blooms individually and firmly in news paper and leave them like that overnight in water to regain their strength.
Other tulip growing tricks from grandma’s time:
1) add a spoonful of sugar dissolved in tepid water;
2) add a couple of copper coins;
3) put the tulips only in an inch of water (don’t forget to top up regularly);
4) add some 7up;
5) add a potato peel;
6) leave tulips for one day in their packaging standing in water;