Tulips are the most labor-intensive bulbs we plant at PowellsWood. Because tulip bulbs are a favored delicacy among wild creatures, especially our little gopher friends, we take extra care with the tulips to ensure we humans can enjoy their beauty come spring. Read on to learn more about how we plant tulips, and about some of our favorites…
During each bloom season, we keep track of how the various tulips have performed to see which ones hold up well, and which ones are the late-bloomers, that is, which ones will be in bloom in early May for Mother’s Day weekend—these are the tulip bulbs we make sure to reorder in the fall.
We order the bulbs in late October to November, and as soon as the bulbs arrive, we start the planting process.
We’ve discovered a few types of tulips—Tulip ‘Spring Green,’ ‘Flaming Spring Green’ and ‘Yellow Spring Green’—are left alone by wildlife, and we plant these bulbs directly in the ground. In addition to being left alone by wildlife, these tulips have also rebloomed quite nicely the past couple of years since we first planted them, especially ‘Spring Green.’
We also plant species tulips directly in the ground, though we have found these tulips bloom a bit too early and don’t last as long.
All the other types of tulips require a bit (okay, a lot) more care. To protect these tulip bulbs from being munched on by wildlife, we plant them in containers. In addition to protecting the bulbs from wildlife, once the flowers are in bloom, the containers allow us to move the pots wherever we wish in the garden—that’s the fun part!
Before we get to do that, however, here is what we do…
1. We use plastic nursery pots, about 10 inches wide, and at least that deep. Deeper pots are better because the sides of the pot support the tulips as they grow.
2. We use Sunshine Mix potting soil (http://www.sungro.com). Each pot is planted first with some soil, then we place the bulbs—about 7 bulbs per pot—and then we add more soil. The top of the soil is then dressed with bulb fertilizer, which works its way in over time.
3. Each pot is then covered with a circle of chicken wire, using landscape staples to hold the wire in place. We label each pot with the name and color of the tulip, and the bed in which we plan to place it.
4. The pots are then stored in the woodland garden area, where it’s cold and shady. In that location, the bulbs stay very cold while also getting watered by the rain.
5. In late winter to early spring when we start to see the beginnings of growth, we remove the chicken wire so the plants are free to grow. We’ve found that at this point, even with the wire removed, the animals leave the tulips alone.
6. When the plants start getting a bit taller, we start staging the pots in the garden, usually at the beginning of April. We place the pots behind taller plants to help screen the pots from view.
7. Then, we wait with anticipation for Mother Nature’s beautiful display—hopefully right on time for Mother’s Day!