Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Love/Hate Relationship


With almost indecent haste the spring bulb catalogues are coming through the letter box and once more the annual saga of tulip selection will be upon us.  My brow will furrow, I will agonise and waver but no doubt will fall for them again. Tulips - what's not to like? My blogging friends sing their praises, garden writers rave about them and in the past tulip fanciers paid a king's ransom for them. I've never heard or seen anybody say a bad word about tulips. I must be in a minority though when I say that I remain to be convinced. I think that it's the foliage that I find most unattractive followed by other undesirable traits. However my lack of success in growing them consistently well is probably down to my shortcomings as a gardener. Perhaps you can tell me where I am going wrong.

This spring's offerings were all confined to containers on the premise that I can get them out of the way quickly once they've flowered. The first big pot was planted in December 2012 with 'Doll's Minuet', 'Ballerina and 'Black Hero'. I must admit did look reasonably attractive the previous spring although the leaves were an eyesore. The first two varieties of bulb flowered again but this time sadly absolutely no sign of 'Black Hero'. This made the remaining tulips stick out like a sore thumb as the latter toned down the combination. They were grew quite tall and took on a marked contorted lurch as they took the brunt of rain and wind. The ugly monster leaves completely flopped and caught my eye from the kitchen window every time I stood at the kitchen sink. Yuk! A good excuse to leave cooking and dish washing to himself for a couple of weeks.

Pot numbers two were single plantings - no fancy colour combinations here but 'Spring Green' in a couple of pots and 'Mount Tacoma' in another. Needless to say they did not flourish. The foliage was of one pot of 'Spring Green' was ravaged before it even flowered. I'm not sure who the culprit was although my suspect is a squirrel. I have to cover nearly all my pots of bulbs with chicken wire for the tulips to stand any chance of seeing spring but maybe a determined creature managed to have more than a nibble or two. The other pot simply did not flower well or last any length of time although I suppose that the weather was on the warm side. As for 'Mount Tacoma' planted in two tall ceramic pots there was a conspicuous absence of flower - maybe a couple of flowers from each pot. The remainder were blind. Maybe I did not plant them deep enough? I just don't know. Funnily enough the very first time I planted these bulbs they were stars which is why I was attracted to them again.

Finally the last trio, another of Sara Raven's tulip combination suggestions, consisted of 'Havran', 'Prinses Irene' and 'Couleur Cardinal'. They were planted in an old galvanised metal container and were far the best of my tulip plantings this spring but not without fault. Now the leaves had a good habit, the colour combination was absolutely spot on but 'Havran' was much taller than the other two which really irritated me. It was also noticeably first into flower and the last to drop its petals having flowered for a good month.

So that is my tulip summary for the spring 2014. Needless to say no photographs were taken hence the above illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith.

I've not had a good browse through the new catalogues yet but I'm sure I will be tempted by tulips again. Initial thoughts though include planting the metal container solely with 'Havran' and investigating species tulips in depth. In the meantime though the names 'Bruine Wimpel', 'Belle Epoque' and 'Merlot' are whispering in my ear. What about you?  Any foolproof recommendations? Any thoughts on what tulips you will be planting this autumn and does anybody else find them a challenge or is it just me?

12 comments:

  1. I do like tulips but prefer some of the other spring bulbs. Saying that, I missed them this year as I never got round to planting any last autumn, I won't make the same mistake this year. I'm going to investigate the varieties you mention now, you may inspire me in my purchases.

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    1. Not my favourite spring bulbs either Jo but I would like to do better in the tulip department :)

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  2. Last year I had The Pink Collection from Peter Nyssen and they were marvellous. Much commented on. This I have gone alone. Cairo, La Belle Epoque and a double white name eludes me.

    Sue.

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    1. Thanks for visiting and for your comment Sue. I will look out for the Pink Collection.I ordered my tulip bulbs from Peter Nyssen too but don't remember seeing that one. Cairo has also caught my eye :)

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  3. Good heavens - bulb catalogues already? What a shame your tulips disappointed you Anna. I do think species tulips might change your mind though. Try Lilac Wonder, or Tulipa humilis Albocaerulea. :)

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    1. Yes that time of year seems to have come round all too quickly Cathy. The petals have only just fallen off one lot and here we go again! Thanks for your recommendations. I will investigate them forthwith.

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  4. What a shame your tulips are always a disappointment to you - I have a particular fondness for them. I grow most of mine in containers but always remove them at the end of the season, dry them out and re-plant them in the garden in the autumn. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - but it's worth a try. I love them because they bring much needed colour at a time when there is very little else. Love your 'little maids all in a row'.

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    1. Oh thanks for your consoling words Elaine. You are quite right in that they can provide most welcome splashes of colour when the other spring bulbs have gone over. I like the illustration too although it all seems rather too neat :)

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  5. I'm sorry about your tulips; but they are a bulb with particular requirements. They need a reasonable cold spell to flower well and no water during summer, which is why most English gardeners lift their and store them dry to re-plant the following autumn. In Italy mine stay in the ground and those in places with no irrigation re-flower well. A method I can recommend is to plant in pots, plunge them into the border and them when they've finished flowering lift the pot out of the soil a store somewhere they won't recieve too much water. I would add that they are cheap enough to treat as an annual.

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  6. Thanks for your useful advice Christina. I imagine that your climate is more to their liking. I can't see myself lifting and storing them so I think it will probably be a case of trying a few from new each year. Since writing the post an afterthought ocured. The bulbs in the metal container were planted directly into the container in its final position. The others though were planted under cover mainly to deter the squirrels and then bought out at a later date. As it was a very mild winter maybe they did not get enough of a cold spell hence the poor flowering. I would like to succeed in growing tulips well but have had mixed results up to now. I'm also still dubious about the leaves of some varieties: )

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  7. I would thoroughly recommend the species tulips too, Anna - Peter Nyssen has nearly a page of them. They will come up year after year and if you avoid the ones with broader leaves like kaufmania you won't notice the leaves as they die back when they are in your borders

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  8. I had tulips this past spring. Every few years I am compelled to prove that tulips indeed can be coaxed to bloom here where the conditions are absolutely not to their satisfaction. It happened to be the year that we had unusual cold and much rain in late winter and they 'turned out' -- I will not go through that again unless more bulbs are forced on me.

    Back to Narcissus. I have great plans.

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.