Tulips 2018 – the results are in …

Tulip Aafke

After the excitement of designing the spring colour scheme and planting out the tulips in the autumn we rarely reflect on how well each of the individual varieties worked out in practice.  So, this year things will be different!  The aim here is to record how they performed so that we can actually remember what did well when we come to sit down with the catalogues next year.

It is important to remember that our garden is just outside Warwick in the UK Midlands.  Further south flowering is likely to be earlier and towards the north of England and into Scotland flowering will be considerably later.  Equally because we are about as far away from the sea as you can get in England we are probably drier than the far west but wetter than the east.  This winter (2017/18) does appear to have been particularly wet here in Warwick.

Tulip Brown Sugar
Tulip Brown Sugar

Timing

We usually plan our tulips so that we will have as long a flowering period as possible thus allowing us to cut regularly for bouquets and other arrangements.  Typically we will see a steady progression from the very early, early , mid-season and late tulips flowering from mid-March through to May.

This year things haven’t worked out in quite such an orderly fashion.  As usual the Kaufmanniana tulips (Ice Stick) and Greigii tulips flowered first (Vanilla Cream) flowering around the 6 April.

Kaufmanniana Tulip Ice Stick
Kaufmanniana Tulip Ice Stick

The very cold spring followed by the blast of heat on 18th and 19th April brought most of the remaining tulips out at the same time (c. 20th April).  From a gardening perspective this created a wonderful explosion of colour but as a flower grower it meant that we had a glut of flowers with a very limited period for sales.  We appear to have lost the usual differentiation between early, mid-season and late this year.

Our photographic records from 2014 show that the Kaufmanniana tulips were in bloom on 31 March (as opposed to 6 April this year), the early Purissima tulips on 31 March also whilst the bulk of the mid-season tulips were flowering by 11 April (as opposed to 20 April this year).   Despite what has seemed a very cold season these records indicate that we have only really seen a lag of about 1 week on previous years.

Tulip Finola
Sold as Tulip Caravelle (but does not seem to match the catalogue description)

Stem Length

For each of the varieties we have measured a typical stem length and compared it with the projected height in the original Parkers catalogue.  As florists and flower growers the length of the stem, the quality of the bloom achieved and whether they are early, mid-season or late tulips is vital and will determine whether we plant the same variety again next year.

Our stem length measurements only provide an indication and are taken at a typical cutting stage of maturity.  In reality tulips continue to grow even after they have been cut.  This feature does make creating formal wedding bouquets with tulips particularly challenging.  If you prepare a bouquet the night before an event the tulips will have grown by morning undermining the design and shape.

 Variety Actual Height Expected Height
 Jan Reus 45cm 50cm
Ballerina 55cm 55cm
 Christmas Pearl 40cm 35cm
 Finola 30cm 40cm
 Brown Sugar 60cm 45cm
 Princess Irene 32cm 35cm
 Merlot 65cm 70cm
 Pretty Woman 55cm 40cm
 Marilyn 55cm 55cm
 La Belle Epoque 48cm 40cm
 Slawa 55cm 40cm
 Recreado 48cm 50cm
Tulip Princess Irene
Tulip Princess Irene

Overall, despite the cold spring and slow growth the tulips have pretty much all achieved the expected stem length.  Three varieties, Brown Sugar, Pretty Woman and Slawa, seem to have done particularly well and grown some way beyond the projected height.

For some reason Black Hero and Apricot Parrot don’t seem to have come up at all.

Longevity

Typically we would treat our tulips as annuals planting out new bulbs in the autumn and digging them up after flowering.  To get the longest stems many of the bulbs are pulled out of the ground when we harvest the flowers.

Greigii Tulip Vanilla Cream
Greigii Tulip Vanilla Cream

There are a few, however, that seem to be more perennial than the rest.  These include the Kaufmanniana and Greigii tulips and we have also retained a large clump of what we think is Jan Reus which seem to have established themselves well.

Tulip Jan Reus
Tulip Jan Reus

Quality

Very few of the varieties have suffered (in terms of bloom quality) from the cold, wind and rain.  We grow all of our tulips outdoors.

Tulip La Belle Epoque
Tulip La Belle Epoque

Storage and holding

Because the tulips have all come together we have had to hold some cut tulips so that they were available for later weddings.  To do this we cut and condition the flowers as usual and then wrap them tightly in brown paper to keep them straight.  They are then stored flat in a cool refrigerator (out of water) until needed.

When you get them out of the fridge they do tend to look pretty sad and floppy but you will be amazed how they perk up.  Simply re-cut the stems, re-wrap in brown paper to keep them straight and place in cool, fresh water to rehydrate overnight.  By the morning they will be turgid and fresh looking and ready to use.

Around the garden

The individual blooms are lovely but combining them with other complementary flowers in a garden setting really brings them to life (see Spring sunshine and tulips in full bloom for the full picture).


Honey Pot Flowers are wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.

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2 thoughts on “Tulips 2018 – the results are in …”

  1. They are all beautiful. Brown Sugar is particularly lovely, I think. I’m off to visit Forde Abbey in Dorset today for their fantastic tulip display. They label all the varieties, too, which is really helpful if you see one you like!

    Liked by 1 person

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