Tulips: Cultivating the Right Attitude

You have to begin with a nod to their roots. Tulips are natives of Eastern Turkey and the foothills of the Himalaya. They don’t belong here. Whether they behave as annuals or perennials is largely beyond our control. If you go in with that attitude it might be less stressful. (I’m working on our Paola Prints pillow listing for Amazon- The photo above shows you the progress). After much consternation (mine) I’m approaching the finish line and hope to go live very soon. Wish us luck!

Let’s be honest. Tulips in New England are largely a recurring expense with a short life span, limited predictability and  rare incidence of naturalization. I stopped buying annuals for similar reasons. It’s also why I choose to buy hyacinths, Lily of the Valley and daffodils -which seem to fare better here. Somehow you feel better considering tulips as an extravagant annual. Whatever color appears in the early spring window is a blessing. I generally don’t fertilize them because in New England, you get one season if you’re lucky. And then there’s the voles who thrive on a steady diet of tulip munching underground.

Tulips

This year, I’m planting many red tulips that will bloom mid to late season in an effort to extend our blooming season in the garden. I had a big gap this year between azaleas and lilies.

Each year I admit to confusion about what bulbs to buy and how to plant them. If like me, you go looking online for reminders, you’ll find unhelpful statements like this: “Though cross-breeding or hybridizing sometimes diminishes a tulip’s ability to “perennialize,” other times it enhances this ability” ??? Some tulips are better than others for coming back. I’ve read that Darwin hybrids – the big red, yellow, orange and two-toned colors tend to be more perennial. That’s why I banned yellow from my garden. Who knew?

Who doesn’t crave the first colors of Spring? Even so, for me, planting bulbs is always fraught with a bit of panic. Did the ground get too hard?  How deep do they go, how close together…?

Am I the only person who manages to chop an existing bulb in half with her first shovel plunge into the earth? And honestly, who really remembers where you put bulbs a year ago. I made an elaborate map last year. We’ll see how that works. You just can’t plan what lives or dies underground between seasons.

Here are a few tulip planting tips:

Generally speaking, plant deep, 8” plus in a well- drained area. Tulips like sandy soil. Water well after planting. If you’re fertilizing, use a low nitrogen fertilizer (well-rotted cow manure), or special bulb fertilizer. More info here. Fertilizer can help, but put it on top -not in the hole where it could burn the bulb. The best kind of fertilizer has a nutrient ratio of 9-9-6. So use a slow release fertilizer – nutrients are released to the tulip bulb roots continually. Read more at Gardening Know How.  

Tulips

Last mums of Autumn. I caught them sprinkled with melting frost this morning.

Supposedly, you can still plant if the ground is frozen. Who hasn’t been tempted at the grocery store by homeless bulbs on clearance begging for adoption? If you get caught with a bag of bulbs that didn’t make it underground before it froze, there’s an interesting article. I haven’t tried it but it’s something to file away for another day.

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                                         Classic

So, we’re working hard to get Paola Pillows to our new and expanded Amazon audience for the holidays. We stock and ship 18” pillows.  Custom sizes are available and wholesale buyers are welcome. You can reach me by email with questions.

Tulips

An old friend, our garden serenity statue is migrating indoors very soon. Hate to see him go each year.

This song gave me goosebumps. Rachel Price and Vilray performing a song he wrote for a friend’s wedding. “Do Friends Fall in Love.” Love the harmony. We fell in love with Rachel when we heard her solo at Winsted CT Community College. Following a very successful run with the fab Lake Street Dive, she’s now touring with Vilray, a working musician raised in Brooklyn. Love his sound, and his whistling. They met at the New England Conservatory. Rachel and Vilray are performing in Cambridge in January! See you there or elsewhere!

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