Unlike gardening magazines that arrive a month early, this blog is about a month late!  So let’s talk about tulips.  To be honest, I’ve never been that bothered with tulips – you know the sad little bunches in petrol stations or the shocking pricey bunches in florists.  No matter the cost, they all had irritatingly floppy stems making them hopeless for vases.

The blogger over at mytinyplot is passionate about tulips and her photos were beautiful.  I felt inspired so I found a patch at the plot for some tulips and did some reading and then some buying.  I love the bold, brash primary colours of red and yellow tulips standing tall and straight.  The peony -shaped tulips are completely different to the red and yellow ‘appledoorn’ types but quite lovely.

The soil needed some work: to do well tulips prefer fertile, well-drained soil in full sun.  I could manage the full sun (it’s a south facing plot) but the fertile and well-drained bit needed some help with manure and sharp sand dug then rotovated into the patch.

Finally, my bulb order arrives: 20 each of red, yellow and white appledoorn tulips and a further 20 of Queen of the Night and 20 Angelique peony-shaped types.

I grew these and now I understand why people rave about tulips

My first ever bunch of home grown tulips certainly made the effort worthwhile and there were several more bunches during 2013….

There is an ongoing debate as to whether tulip bulbs should be treated as annual but the answer always seems to be ‘depends’ …

Hybrids, my preference for shape are not long lived.  The red and yellow come back this year but about half as many and the white completely disappeared.  Queen of the Night was a 100% return but just two Angelique survived the wet winter.  From now on, I’ll be treating these as annuals and lifting the bulbs and replanting about half with fresh bulbs each autumn.

IMG_0496 IMG_0498I was really pleased with the deep, rich purple colour of Queen of the Night, although none made it into a vase as it’s partner Angelique didn’t turn up!

The way the bloom holds itself as a cup, gently swaying in the breeze, reminded me of guardsmen on parade wearing their bearskins.

For more information on how to plant tulip bulbs and information on different cultivars the RHS website is good

RHS tulip advice