Another dry spring appears to have produced an especially vibrant performance of early tulips. However, a recent visit to RHS Wisley reminded me that my offerings on the tulip front are a little mediocre!
I have often been frustrated by tulips and their rather temporary nature – here one year, gone the next. I dislike fishing them out of a pot after flowering only to discover that they have split into several bulblets and it’s hard to know what is worth keeping for the following year. I guess that’s partly my own fault for only planting them in pots as, once they are over, I’m ready to move on to the next season’s planting.
That said, over the past couple of autumns, I have deliberately planted more tulips to bridge the gap from the daffodils going over and the summer border coming to life and this year I have been more than pleased with the results. Having seen it recommended in many a gardening magazine, programme and blog, I planted up two bulb lasagnes – tulips deep down, miniature daffodils in the middle, and iris reticulata for the top early layer.
One of these pots I kept simple and only planted the bulbs, covering the top with an old upside down hanging basket in an attempt to stop the squirrels re-planting the bulbs elsewhere! As I glance outside the backdoor, this particular pot is just coming to its end with the final flourish of fiery orange and red tulips glowing in the sunlight.
I was more ambitious with the second ‘lasagne’ as it was going into a particularly large, deep pot which meant I felt that I could get away with an additional winter layer comprised of wintering flowering violas and some variegated trailing ivies. Having read the recommendation to plant variegated ivy to brighten dark areas, I deliberately chose a variety with white / silvery edges which shone through the winter and which I intend to plant out at some point down the far end of the garden where it is incredibly shady and ivy is one of the few things that grows successfully. My thought is that I can at least brighten up this area with the paler leaves. The bulb leaves are now starting to die back and I am wondering whether I can carefully over-plant something for the summer without disturbing the bulbs beneath?
I have never really planted tulips in the border as I’ve always read that they don’t really come back and you need to replant every year. However, I’ve noticed that my neighbour’s red tulips return to his border faithfully every year; and next-door-but-one threw in loads of red and orange tulips about three years ago and they have come back successfully. So last year I decided to ignore the advice and attempt to naturalise some tulips in the border and, in particular, some rather stunning purple tulips which had flowered at the same time as the bluebells. I could see that they would make a fantastic combination so, instead of leaving them in the pot or lifting them to dry and then be lost at the back of the shed, I decided to transplant them to an area of border directly behind a huge clump of bluebells. To my amazement they have returned this year with some vigour but, guess what? They have flowered at a different time to the bluebells! I guess you can’t win them all!