Tulips – planning and planting for 2018

The clocks may have changed and the nights are drawing in but there is still a great deal of planning and preparing to be done in the flower garden before the winter sets in.  Work done now will reward us in the spring.

There are so many tulip varieties available that you can almost create any colour effect or combination that you want.  What’s more, as a cut flower grower, choosing the right varieties can provide you with blooms from late March through April and into May.

Not only do tulips come in a stunning colour palette but there are a wide range of shapes and sizes including singles, doubles, lily types, fringed and parrots.  Anna Pavord in her book “Bulb” lists 15 divisions of tulips and provides a fascinating background to the history and development of each type.

Spoilt for choice

So where do you start when the choice seems to be endless?  Probably the three key things to think about are colour, height and flowering times.

Do you want muted complementary colours in a range of shades/tints or striking, contrasting colours to give impact on dull spring days?  Do you want to plant in flower borders with tall stemmed varieties at the back and shorter ones to the front or perhaps plant up tubs with some of the more dwarf varieties?  If you will be cutting for flower arranging you will probably want a stem length of upwards of 45cm and ideally 55-60cm.

Ideally you want to create a show that progresses smoothly through the season with one or more varieties flowering in the same period and look good together.  We have listed some of the varieties that we have used in the past in our Flower Library portfolio on Pinterest.  As well as some of the tulip varieties we have grown, the March and April flower libraries also show other flowers that are out at the same time and, when planted together with the tulips, create more interesting flower combinations of texture and form than simply using tulips alone.

If you are interested in cutting for the house or doing your own wedding flowers our selection of spring bouquet examples on Pinterest will also show how these might be put together for great effect.   If you are a grower and event florist and selecting flowers for next years’ weddings then you need to choose colours that are currently popular with brides.  Keep an eye on emerging trends.

Tulips and anemones
These orange tulips with a blush of red create a striking combination when set alongside seasonal anemones

Planting for 2018

One of the difficulties of writing a blog post about planting tulips is that we have no pictures yet of how our vision is going to turn out.  Next year when they flower we will post again on this!!

In anticipation these are some of the combinations that we are planting out at the moment across the garden:

Burgundy “Jan Reus” and orange “Ballerina” tulips together with “Blood Red” and “Fire King” wallflowers.

Orange lily type tulip “Ballerina” with “Princess Irene” and “Jenny

Tulip “Merlot“, with creamy white and strawberry red “Marilyn” and cardinal red  “Pretty Woman

Double apricot tulip “La Belle Epoque” with violet purple “Recreado“, red-purple “Slawa“, “Black Hero“, “Apricot Parrot” and burgundy “Jan Reus

Orange/brown “Cairo” tulips together with dark blue Bellevalia, crocus “Orange Monarch“, Crocus “Spring Beauty” topped with Viola “Honey Bee“.

Fragrant caramel apricot tulip “Brown Sugar” together with Crocus “Orange Monarch“, “Spring Beauty” and “Pickwick” mixed with white narcissus and topped with Viola “Sorbet Morpho“.

Lilac tulips “Aafke“, soft pink “Christmas Pearl“, deep purple “Caravelle” and double pink and white “Finola” together with narcissus “Misty Glen” and topped with Pansy “Matrix Cassis

Tulips in shades of pink
Tulips in shades of pink arranged with deep burgundy hellebores, white narcissus and flowering currant

Further information and tips

Perennial Hardy Bulb:  Planted in November tulips will certainly be hardy enough to come through the winter.  However, we have found that very few of the tulips come back with the same vigour in subsequent years and it is worth digging them up after flowering and planting a new set the next year.  Many small scale British growers of tulips have reported that replanting in the same area over a number of years can lead to catastrophic problems with tulip diseases.

Origin: Central Asia

Family: Liliaceae

Height:  35-60cm.  It has been our observation that in warmer winters our tulips tend to have short stems than if they experience a colder winter.

Flowering period:  March to early May

Planting:  We plant our tulips around November time.  If you plant too early then the bulbs may be more susceptible to disease.  Tulips like to be planted quite deeply (at least 4 inches) and in tubs you can plant in deep lasagna layers to get a success of flowers over a longer period of time if you choose your varieties carefully.  The squirrels also love to dig them up and we have found that spraying or dusting the bulbs with mammal repellent before covering works extremely well.

Cut flowers:  Yes, long lasting.    Something to remember here is that tulips continue to grow once arranged.  Beware that if you create a wedding bouquet the day before with tulips in it you may find that in the morning all the tulips have extended.

Conditioning:  Standard conditioning in cool clear water for at least 2 hours.  Keep the stems straight by wrapping bunches in paper as they can bend very rapidly.

Holding back:  It is possible if cut early to hold back tulips.  After conditioning, wrap in newspaper and place in a refrigerator.  Make sure that they do not freeze.  We have held tulips back like this for at least a couple of weeks when we have needed them for a later wedding.  When you want to revive them (they will look limp and uninviting at this point) place them in fresh water with flower food (in their wrapping) until they are turgid and looking fresh once again.

Early tulipsCF3045
Large orange and white Purissima tulips alongside Blood Red fragrant wallflowers

Further reading: 

“Bulb” by Anna Pavord (ISBN 978-1-84533-415-4)

 

 

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