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?