Well, we got the bulbs in a shade before New Year’s. This was very late for us, but a neighbor and terrific green thumb assured me it was okay, as the bulbs had had more than their share of fridge time leading up to the planting, and the soil is still diggable.
I’m in Sunset gardening zone 17 (USDA Zone 9), in which you pretty much have to plant bulbs fresh each year. While each spring, some do come up where I’ve neglected to dig them out, they’re generally not as hardy or pretty as they were the first year. Perhaps this is for the best. Each year brings new trips to the local nursery and new types of tulips to try. I usually buy 60 or so bulbs — enough for a good show on the deck (one of the benefits of a smaller garden) and a volume discount, while not enough to upset the flower budget. The homely bulbs go into the fridge in mid-October for their long (especially this year) hibernation. And, on an invariably cold, crisp day — in 6″ deep holes (aided by a simple bulb digger) and with a little organic fertilizer — into the ground they go.
The Blooming Bulb site sells bulbs and offers more detailed tulip planting and storing instructions. The Plant Expert is a fabulous resource about choosing, planting, storing and growing bulbs and all kinds of plants. Another is Doug Green’s Flower Garden Bulbs, which sells bulbs as well. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs also sells bulbs throughout the year by mail order. A huge bulb and perennial seller worth knowing about is K. VanBourgondien and Sons. They offer good prices, an extensive selection, and a catalogue worth perusing, any time of the year.
So, what did we plant?
Of our six different tulips, one was a returner from last year, the irresistible Negrita. The Negrita is a great tulip with a dramatic magenta color that provides a nice contrast to more pastel-colored tulips, and a classic big Triumph shape that is slightly elongated. This is one of our Negritas last year. It’s a sturdy, thick-stemmed flower, 18-22″ high.
The Beau Monde brings out many a poet among bulb catalog writers. Blooming Bulb writes: “Huge chalice-form blooms are a creamy white with flames of raspberry red and bright yellow around the inside bottom of the bloom.” Brent and Becky’s Bulbs calls them “beautiful and alluring”. Both note that, while the Beau Monde is officially classified as a Triumph, it’s strong and hardy like a Giant Darwin. I think they’re supposed to be around 18″ tall, but am seeing a wide range of heights offered. We’ll find out in a few months!
I am always on the lookout for classically shaped tulips in a soft salmon or apricot color. Last year I found it in a Daydream tulip and this year I’m hoping the Apricot Beauty is as pretty as its picture. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs tells me it’s also fragrant – hooray! – a Single Early tulip with a range of heights from 12″ up. (The tag in the nursery said 14″ — early flowering tulips tend to have shorter stems.)
In another section went two brightly colored and popular Darwin Hybrid tulips. Blooming Bulb tells me that “the Golden Apeldoorn has golden yellow blooms with a black star shaped base. Very weather resistant with strong stems.” They are predicted to be tall – 20″ or so.
Joining the Apeldoorn is the bright red Parade. That one is described by Blooming Bulb as “deep scarlet red with a black base. Regal blooms on 24 inch stems!” We can’t wait.
We usually try to plant one especially exotic tulip – one with frilly edges or flames of color shooting through it. This year’s is the White Parrot. Writes Blooming Bulb: “Large white blooms with apple green brush stroke markings sit atop strong, straight 18-inch stems. Impressive in the garden and in the vase.” Sounds pretty enough to paint!
Photos: Beau Monde, Apeldoorn and White Parrot: Blooming Bulb; Apricot Beauty and Parade: Netherland Flower Bulb Info; Others: Susan Sachs Lipman