|IT IS TULIP TIME|
‘Tis the season to do your ordering and buying for your fall planting. Although most bulbs will perennialize in gardens, tulips have become more annual than perennial. They have always been treated as annuals in the warm states, but they even struggle to survive more than one summer now in the brrrr states. There is a chance that a few will rebloom the second year. Avoid disappointment and replant every winter.
Exceptions to this are the species and heirloom tulips. They will never win a "biggest in show" ribbon, but used en masse in the landscape, they are a lovely presence. I especially like the kaufmanniana tulips. A couple beauties are Tulipa 'Johann Strauss' and Tulipa ‘Scarlet Baby’.
I like the way they flatten out their flower heads, just like an Australian Frilled Lizard, so that they look three times as big as they really are.
A new heirloom to me, Tulipa 'Bright Gem' is an apricot yellow. It is said to perennialize in even the warmest of USDA Zone 9 gardens. Cold doesn’t faze it either. It is rated to a very chilly USDA Zone 3. I’m going to squeeze this diminutive one into a sunny spot.
If small and understated apricot is not your idea of a tulip, then take a look at the Parrot Tulip ‘Monsella’. Modest she is not. She throws huge blossoms ruffled in the brightest yellow and red. I first saw this beauty in the Riverbanks Botanical Garden in Columbia, South Carolina.
There they backed her with ornamental ‘Red Giant’ mustard and under planted her with brilliant red and yellow pansies of almost the same hues. The pansies were overpowering and, impossible as it seems, overtook her colors. I did like the dark leaved red giant mustard background colors in the bed. You could also use ‘Redbor’ kale or dinosaur kale as dark backgrounds.
Southerners can grow tulips, too. Buy them early and chill them in the frig crisper for eight weeks or more. Be sure not to hold them in the same drawer with fruit that releases ethylene gas. If the bulbs are exposed to this gas, they will either not blossom at all or will have malformed flowers and/or leaves. You can begin planting them around Thanksgiving and continue until the end of January.
Most literature I have read says to plant early season tulips in the South but I have found that middle and late season flowers stand up better and longer to those quick-appearing hot days. Along with the heirlooms and ‘Monsella’, I have had good luck with the deep, dark tulip ‘Queen of Night’. It turns out she’s an heirloom, too. Who knew?
Whenever you get the chance, take note of what you like and don’t like as pairings in a garden. This will help you develop your own sense of style and color adaptations. Visit public gardens, not just to Ooo! and Ahhh! over the loveliness, but to learn what works and what doesn’t in a garden bed.
In your own backyard, take photos of your garden patches. Visualize springtime, when your perennials will be dormant. Then, slip in some tulip bulbs to fill in those spring gaps and to satisfy that early spring stroll when you are out looking for "what’s coming up in the garden."
---Posted by Anne K Moore, September 29 2008---
NASA Seeds in Space
"Making a connection to a woodland garden isn’t dependent on a grand space or budget. My first garden was on an eighth-acre urban lot in Newark, Delaware…planted the tiny space with woodland ferns, wildflowers, and shrubs..," Rick Darke, The American Woodland Garden-Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest.