Tulips: Tips, History, and Design Ideas

This photo titled "Beauty Within" is just one wonderful aberration that can spontaneously happen with tulips.  This is Division 7 Fringed.
This photo titled "Beauty Within" is just one wonderful aberration that can spontaneously happen with tulips. This is Division 7 Fringed. | Source

Designing with Color and Height

It's funny how something as simple and with such graceful lines such as the tulips available, can be such a strong design element in the garden. Species 'tulipa' is at once orderly and exotic. Tulips do not hail from Holland, believe it or not, but from the wild mountains of Asia and Turkey. From white to near black and dwarf to the exotic frilly edged Parrot Tulip, I welcome the return of these friends every spring. Not a delicate flower and a pleasure to grow, my only complaint is that they are not around long enough to enjoy. Before you know it they're gone until next year.

I like that their bulbs look so strong and sturdy. Depending on the variety, the bulbs can be two inches across. The wild bulbs of species tulip are much smaller, but every bit as powerful as their larger sisters. Most tulip bulbs feel substantial in you hands, after all, these bulbs hold the powerful promise of the renewal of spring and everything good and bright. As you may be able to guess I like these stalwarts not just for gardening, but for what they symbolize. I guess they evolved in this way to deal with the hearty weather they were originally from. Grown from little storehouses of willful energy, the tulip bulb needs a cold period to bloom beautifully in spring. Hardy and reliable bloomers, they can be used in a number of creative ways without looking predictable. Try naturalizing them on a hillside (this means planting them amid the grass, not in their own little plot. Massed in a half moon design and using a contrasting very soft pink in front and a dramatic purple black behind, they can really be an eye catcher. Be careful where and how you plant your tulips, though because after they are done blooming, what's left is not that pretty. If you don't worry about such things, then by all means, plant them wherever they would thrive. If the thought of dying back leaves bugs you, then naturalizing them or putting them with something behind or in front of them is an easy way to disguise the dying leaves.

Tulips are originally from Turkey and central Asia and are used to dry, warm, exposed areas. Keep this in mind when you plant the bulbs. They can rot pretty easily. Keep the bulbs in a soil that's on the gritty side. Tulip bulbs definitely don't like sitting in a pool of water. They are used to living on rocky slopes with sharp drainage. This simply means that water drains as if it's going through a screen. On the plus side, they will last for years. Every couple of years, dig up your tulips after they are done blooming and you will find free gifts in the form of perfect little offshoots of new bulbils. Plant these in a different spot and watch your beautiful bounty multiply!

"Center of Delicacy" is a photo illustrating how very different tulip varieties are.  This deep pink one is probably a Division 6 (Lily flowered) or a Division I (Single, early), but I'm not sure!
"Center of Delicacy" is a photo illustrating how very different tulip varieties are. This deep pink one is probably a Division 6 (Lily flowered) or a Division I (Single, early), but I'm not sure! | Source

Types of Tulips

There are a kazillion types of tulips from the petite ones of wild orginis to the beautiful cultivated tall tulips. Ranging in size from about four inches to over 24 inches, you have your choice of what look and fragrance you would like to give to your garden. I say give in to your garden muse and experiment. How about the exotic, tall (22 inches) Blue Parrot variety mingling in a rock garden? The petals are of a dark purple blue color and are slightly crinkled all around just enough to make you look twice, and the center is intriguing with a true tropical or peacock blue color. The overlooked part of a tulip is often the center, so, don't forget to peek inside. You will be amazed! This would be good intermixed with some beautiful, simply formed white tulips such as t. 'Sapporo'. This is an elegant white tulip with pointed petals instead of rounded which open into a vase shape. It is light yellow in bud, but moves to ivory white as it blossoms. Fourteen inches tall, the clean lines of the white tulips can work as a fresh accent to the unusual Blue Parrot tulip. . Variety is the spice of life and nothing could be more true in the world of tulips. Yellows, reds, purples, oranges, whites, doubles, parrots, frilled, lily flowered and many more. Most are hardy to zone 4 and need an indolently hot season to be able to develop their bulbils and a period of cold to set the growth. You can have a succession of tulips from early spring to early summer if you plan right. Just do a little research. If it was me planting, I would plant a mix of early and late blooming tulips so that when one set died down, another set would start to crop up

This is an orange variety of fringe tulips among the yellows.
This is an orange variety of fringe tulips among the yellows. | Source
Although tulips are inherently tough, don't leave an impending branch hang over their head.  They much prefer to grow in an unfettered way.
Although tulips are inherently tough, don't leave an impending branch hang over their head. They much prefer to grow in an unfettered way. | Source

Care of Tulips

Care of tulips is pretty straightforward. While they're blooming, they enjoy their share of sun and water, but, they must have free draining soil. Planting on a slope works well and so does making simple adjustments. Add some gravel around your tulips or some builder's sand to the soil. With the help of gravity, these soil amendments will slowly sink down and make an ideal environment, allowing the ground around your tulips to drain quickly. In the wild, tulips are not used to being pampered, so don't pamper them. You will be doing them a huge favor by giving the correct growing conditions and then leaving them alone. The amount of warmth and sun they receive even as they are out of bloom will determine how well the new bulbils develop or how well developing bulbils put on more bulk. It takes a couple of years for developing bulbils to become mature enough to flower, so for a garden that's full and lush, it's a good idea to have some fully grown bulbs on hand to plant if your tulips look a little sparse one season.

Tulips need a cold period to set the bulbs after they have been baking in the sun. Four months or so in the cold ground gives them time to rest and regenerate. Plant in a sunny, ideally hilly or sloped spot in mid to late fall for the strongest blooms. Don't expect flowers every year from the same plant. It takes a lot of energy for a plant to produce a flower.

When planting tulips, mix compost into the ground with a handful of gravel Plant bulbs three times as deep as the bulb is high and you should have gorgeous results. As tulips come up in the spring, remove any encroaching branches of flowering plants or small shrubs. They like a nice uncrowded area to grow in.

"A Closer View" is a photo of my garden tulips.  I really enjoy the warm and cool tones blended so beautifully.
"A Closer View" is a photo of my garden tulips. I really enjoy the warm and cool tones blended so beautifully. | Source
Although lovely on the outside, the inside of this tulip is mysterious and wonderful.  A secret world.
Although lovely on the outside, the inside of this tulip is mysterious and wonderful. A secret world. | Source
"A Fiery Show"...Tulips come in colors from white to deepest burgundies and heights of four inches to twenty-six inches.  Take your pick, designers!
"A Fiery Show"...Tulips come in colors from white to deepest burgundies and heights of four inches to twenty-six inches. Take your pick, designers! | Source

Flower Art Link

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