Totally tuliped out

Tulipa ‘Angelique’ and Daphnes in the Rose Garden 5-8-08Visitor center bed with Angelique and Cool Crystal tulips 5-8-08I think we outdid ourselves with tulips this year – we planted 300 (Angelique and Cool Crystal) in and around the Rose Garden and 600 (Cistula, Blushing Beauty, Black Hero and Creme Upstar) in the North – not to mention a cutting bed full of them. And they were spectacular! It was the perfect tulip year: They didn’t get eaten by the deer, they started blooming just as the daffodils were going by and they hung on … and on … and on! The heartbreak of digging up still blooming tulips…As a matter of fact some of them were still blooming today. I say “were blooming” because this morning we dug them up and they are now in a sort of organized heap right behind my chair in the potting shed.

Tulips peaking in the North Garden 5-8-08For us, tulips in the North and Rose Gardens act as glorious spring place holders for summer annuals and tender perennials. It works clockwork perfectly – when the annuals come out in the fall, we put the tulips right in – the soil is pillow soft and easy; and come spring, just as the tulips are going by, it’s time to plant the annuals. Every year we buy new tulips for those gardens to make sure the show is as stunning as possible and rotate the past year’s to the cutting beds for one more go. Reduce -Add more! Reuse! Recycle! That’s our motto!

Tulip heap in the potting shedIdeally we would wait for the foliage to wither before digging the bulbs out but we don’t have that kind of time – we want to start planting next week! So we dug them leaving the foliage on to dry out and feed the bulbs for another couple of weeks and piled them in a dry place out of the sun (our “office” incidentally). Some rainy day in a couple/three weeks we’ll remove the stalks and paperbag the bulbs for summer storage in the pot cubbies which is as cool, dark and dry a place as we have here.

I’m debating about digging up the tulips in my own garden. On the one hand they are all in patches that I could more easily fill to the gills with annuals if I took the bulbs out first. On the other hand (she had five fingers) I could take my chances on losing a few to the spade, competition and over watering and save myself the trouble of fussing with storage issues. I’ll plant more in the fall either way… What do you do with your tulips?

3 thoughts on “Totally tuliped out

  1. I don’t think I could deal with having to dig them up & replant them every year. It’s too hard to get that far into the ground (my wrists ache the next day, even with a bulb digger). I have only 2 types of Tulips & both are the perennial type. Geraniums, especially a sprawler like Rozanne, & Lamium make good companions for tulips as they sprawl to cover the bare spaces & don’t need tons of water.

    We have a few clumps of species tulips in the Rose Garden that have done nothing but increase and become more beautiful since we planted them. But they’re in desperate need of companion plants like yours to hide the fading foliage. -kris

  2. Every 2 or 3 years I top up with two or three inches of compose. I noticed that when they started splitting and getting smaller, the bulbs were working up in the soil. If I get the soil back to the optimum planting depth, the tulips get back to their original height and flower size. I’ve kept some clumps going since 1990 this way (Fringed Elegance, and several varieties of lily shaped ones, Carnival de Nice and Esther Rjinveld (?)- (the red and white parrot) have been very happy with this.

    Thanks, Pence for sharing your method for tulip rejuvenation! It makes perfect sense and seems like an easy way to keep old favorites going and going. -kris

  3. Hi, I like the idea of moving them to a cutting garden. Just wish I had room for one.

    One idea I read about is to scatter wildflower seeds on the tulip bed. I have not done that, but I have scattered Nigella seeds and they reseed themselves. It is not as pretty as a bunch of flowering annuals, but it is a lot easier.

    Barbee – I love Nigella so that’s an idea that would work for me just fine! Some people don’t just love how prolific they are though… Verbena bonariensis is another good re-seeder – love it or hate it! -kris

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