Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Tulips and Other Spring Bulbs
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.
--Saadi, Persian Sufi poet, in Gulistan (The Rose Garden), 1258
So getting back to tulips, abit more than 7 years ago throughout the garden I planted 100 Tulipa “Gavota”. It is a beautiful long pointed burgundy tulip with yellow edging. As of now I have maybe a dozen left as they slowly disappear. Originally I bought a bag at Costco. Now I can only find them on-line at just a few sites, at a much higher price of course. I would love to plant another 100 Gavota. It’s amazing how put together a garden looks when color or texture is repeated throughout. Seven years and counting of longevity doesn’t seem too bad…does it?
I recently discovered another email newsletter adding it to my list of favorites. It’s by Ken Druse, entitled Real Dirt and in his latest edition he writes, “…That said; one bulb in the garden hasn't failed me yet. It is a late-season heirloom tulip I bought from Old House Gardens [www.oldhousegardens.com] called 'Insulinde'. The petals or tepals are striped or flamed purple on white. In 2009, the blossoms lasted - from bud to tepal drop -- an astonishing four weeks! And this is a perennial plant returning every spring as large and strong as the previous year.”
I almost forgot to mention the species tulips. Much smaller, some don’t even look like tulips but I have Tulipa turkestanica, they are so sweet. Tiny in size by comparison to today’s standard tulips, they close up at night and open by day also, but they don’t abandon the garden over time. There are several varieties to choose from. Mine came from McClure and Zimmerman (mzbulb.com) I think.
Now about those dying bulb leaves. Yes, you must leave them intact to wither even though the flower has dropped off. It is through the leaves that the bulb is fed and strengthened for next spring’s flowers. If you remove them before they have withered you are starving the bulb. For 8 weeks or more after the flowers are finished, the leaves will continue to grow and produce food for the bulb. If you tie them in a knot, band them or braid them they will not only look silly, you are also reducing the amount of leaf surface the sun and air can access. Also, be sure to deadhead after the flowers fade so the energy can go into the bulb, not seed head production. If you simply cannot leave bulb leaves to die naturally in your garden, perhaps you shouldn’t include bulbs in your plantings.
Speaking of critters… if you ever see your crocus petals just laying on the ground…that is squirrels! I’ve watched them, with their front ‘paws’ pick off the petals, turn them over, nibble something delectable from the base, drop the remainder 0f the petal to the ground and proceed likewise through the whole patch! Apparently my buttery yellow crocus taste better than my purple ones. Sheesh!
So it’s September!! The spring blooming bulbs are in the stores, nurseries and catalogs now just waiting to be snuggled down into your dirt for the winter!
Photos: Fritillaria michailovskyi, Tulipa “Gavota” - courtesy Pat Chissus