There's still time to get your tulip bulbs in...
Don't panic! If you're anything like me then you're only just getting round to planting your tulips now. Or is that just me? I like to wait until the ground gets a bit colder and this apparently helps to wipe out any fungal or viral diseases in the soil. But mainly, I'm just behind on my gardening jobs as usual! The wet Autumn weather hasn't helped and the ground is still very boggy so I'm no too worried that they aren't all in the ground yet. I've discovered something with planting a cutting garden over the last couple of years. If you want to get the best varieties you have to buy them early. I left mine a bit late this year and had to really hunt around for a few of my favourite varieties. So my advice would be don't leave it until you find time to plant them if you want the pick of the best. As I'm planting for cutting I like to plant in rows by colour or in groups. Mainly because I want to go to the Keukenhoff in Holland but haven't got round to it yet. Maybe next year! So I've created my own mini version. Last year I planted 750 bulbs in what was the dahlia bed. I lifted my dahlias last year then filled with tulips. Once the tulips were finished I left the bulbs in that hadn't been cut and planted the dahlias around them. I've now left the dahlias in this winter and intend to leave them all in there to live a happy existence together...well, hopefully! For a couple of years anyway. The second dahlia bed that was new this year will also have tulips planted in it but i'm going to do that in a more natural planting scheme also adding with some alliums and daffodils to the mix.
Last year I went to quite ridiculous lengths to keep the pests away from my tulip bulbs. Mainly because I'd spent so much money, I really didn't want to lose any. My main concern was squirrels and mice. I read up on so many different websites about keeping animals away. Here are some handy tips that I'll be using in my cutting beds again this year.
1. When planting the bulbs try not to leave any bits of the bulb that come off lying around on the soil. Clean up well after you've finished. Any little bits are basically an x marks the spot to a squirrel!
2. Plant deep if you want added protection from pests and also if you want them to come back and flower year after year.
3. If you are planting in a raised cutting bed then cover the bed with a layer of small hole chicken wire pegged in at the corners and sides. This is the most effective method I've found. If you're planting in flower beds then you can cover with chicken wire cloches pegged down.
4. DO NOT use chili pepper or cayenne pepper to keep rodents away. I'm sure this method would probably work but I've been told of reports of animals scratching at their eyes and skin because it irritates them so badly. We want to keep them away but we really don't want to harm them. So leave the fiery stuff in the kitchen.
5. Use organic slug pellets (I use wool pellets in all my flower beds) before the tulips start to emerge. Same goes for the dahlias. Don't wait until the leaves start breaking through. Get in before the slugs do!
This all worked out pretty well. What I hadn't banked on was my dog also deciding she liked the taste of tulips. Well, I have seen her in previous years dig up the odd daffodil bulb straight after I'd planted them but last year she managed to get under the chicken wire and dig out quite a few bulbs. Luckily I managed to rescue most of them. I just had to fasten the chicken wire down more securely to stop her doing it again. When the leaves were about 2 inches long I took the chicken wire off and let them do their thing.
I'm not going to give loads of planting tips here today as I think there are so many great websites and youtube videos giving really detailed information for that but I did want to offer up my tips for protection and also tell you a few of my favourite tulips to grow for cutting and for flower arranging.
But one planting tip I will give is to plant deep with a good layer of grit under the bulb to prevent them for rotting if you are leaving the bulbs in a bed all year. Especially if it's a cutting bed that's going to be watered a lot. The bulbs don't like getting too wet and will rot easily.
So, who's made it on to my favourites list? Well, to be honest, it just needs to be a tulip and I'll love it but I do have a soft spot for a few really special ones.
My Top Ten Tulips...for this year are...
1. Mount Tacoma - A stunning white tulip that's great for cutting and has a light scent. It starts off with a slightly pink tinge with green outer petals then opens to a delicious creamy white almost peony like double tulip. My favourite by far. It's elegant and just gets more and more beautiful as it opens.
2. La Belle Epoque - Another stunner and so popular it seems to be the first one to sell out everywhere online. I had to hunt high and low to find more of these this year. You won't find another tulip like this one. It's a double in an unusual coffee/blush pink. It has a lovely vintage feel about it. A definite for any tulip bed.
3. Copper Image - A beautiful soft browny orange tulip with hints of peach, pink and green running through it. It has a shorter stem so perfect for containers but as with the Mount Tacoma it ages beautifully in the vase.
4. Black Jack - A very regal standard tulip that has a sumptuous velvety feel about it in a deep purple. Totally delicious and certainly fit for a queen!
5. Menton - Standing tall and elegant this show stopper is in the most beautiful shade of coral. But what gets me the most is it's interior. A more vivid shade but with a white stripe running down the centre of each petal. perfect for florists who want to reflex their tulips for added interest.
6. Black Parrot - I have to admit, I'm generally not a fan of parrot tulips but there are two that Iove. This is the first one. I am a bit of a fan of any of the deep red/black/deep purple/deep wine coloured tulips and also ones with texture to them to add interest to an arrangement so this one ticks a lot of boxes. If you're going to have one parrot tulip in the garden then try this one. You won't be disappointed.
7. Apricot Parrot - My one other parrot love. It's not my usual as it's a very multicoloured flower but it definitely packs a punch and adds a fabulous Dutch Masters feel to arrangements.
8. Charming Lady - a beautiful soft orange which seems to fit in perfectly with all of the above tulips in arrangements.
9. Peach Blossom - The name just makes me love it even more. As it opens it is actually reminiscent of blossom. With delicate shades of pink with a hue of white and a delicate yellow centre. Such a pretty tulip.
10. China Town/Spring Green - I've cheated and put two tulips together for this as I wanted to include a green variegated variety as I really love them and both of these really hit the spot for me. The first being pale pink with green and the second being white with green. Totally refreshing and look beautiful when arranged with fresh acid green foliage that starts to sprout at the same time of year on the trees and hedgerows as the tulips are flowering.
Left to right - Menton, Black Parrot and Mount Tacoma.
Let left to right - (top) Peach Blossom/(bottom) Copper Image, Black Jack, China Town.
So that's my favourites list and some of the many varieties I'm planting this year. I've also added in Uncle Tom, National Velvet, Artist, Black Hero, Ayaan, Apricot Impression, Blue Parrot, Mascara, Cabella, Peach Blossom, Turkestanica, Hermitage, Blue Diamond, Elegant Lady and a few more that I can't remember the names of! It's an ever growing list these days.
Hopefully there is something in that list that is new to you and has encouraged you to get planting. Try and get them in the ground before December. To be honest, I planted some near to Christmas last year and they still came up. It's a relatively short flowering season compared to the summer flowers but it's a very glorious one that I would hate to miss.
Where to buy - It's a bit late now if you haven't already bought them but make a note for next year and get in early if you want the good ones before they sell out, especially La Belle Epoque!
And remember, get that chicken wire down and the wool slug pellets out before the pests get a chance to spoil your display!
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I hope you've found it helpful. Until next time....