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Twelve Days of Tulips: Buds, Blooms and Beyond

Updated on April 17, 2018
Rochelle Frank profile image

Living the simple life in a rural area for 20 years, Rochelle has experienced wild critters, gardening adventures and some life lessons.

Classic tulips welcoming the sun.
Classic tulips welcoming the sun. | Source

Low Expectations

I wasn't expecting my tulips to put on much of a show this year.

By the beginning of April my planted barrel was jam-packed with emerging pea-green leaves that looked like pointed swords raised high to inspire warriors.

The leaves seemed healthy, though crowded. I was criticizing myself for not having done any separating and replanting.

A few bulbs had been planted in the wooden half-barrel ten years ago. That had been my first experience with tulips and I had always heard that the bulbs multiply and most varieties need to be dug out and thinned for good results.

I have never done that. Once they bloom and die back, I tend to forget about them.

Surely there would be only a few blooms this year because of my neglect even though I usually have about ten or twelve nice showy flowers every season.

April 5th -- Green Buds

Eighteen Green Buds!
Eighteen Green Buds!

A few days after noticing the prolific leaf growth I saw that there were several buds on sturdy stalks. Pointy spears were taking the place of the sagging swords. They seemed to have popped up all at once.

I counted eighteen, far more buds than had appeared the year before and the stems seemed sturdy and tall. Maybe the blooms would not even open or they would be small. I still wasn't expecting too much.

The nascent buds are the same color as the leaves. One of them is showing a little yellow if you look closely.

April 8th -- Color

Three days later, more buds are getting color. All eighteen look healthy. They didn't seem to be affected by an overnight rain, it was probably good for them.  I'm still thinking they may be smaller than the few large blooms of last year.
Three days later, more buds are getting color. All eighteen look healthy. They didn't seem to be affected by an overnight rain, it was probably good for them. I'm still thinking they may be smaller than the few large blooms of last year.

April 9th -- First Blooms

The first three flowers open.
The first three flowers open.

When I originally planted the bulbs I knew little about tulips. I probably saw the pretty picture on the package and decided to try.

The name of the variety didn't really stick with me. All I know for sure is that they are cup-shaped with six large petals. More of a standard variety, not one of the frilled or fancy ones. The color ranges from deep red to orange to yellow with a dark black center inside.

When trying to find a photo of the variety in online catalogs it seems that mine closely resemble the Apeldoon Elite variety, but it might be a Halley's Comet Jumbo perrenial, perhaps something else.

The stems are about 25 inches tall from ground to petal tips. Being in a raised container gives a better view of their classic tulip shape.
The stems are about 25 inches tall from ground to petal tips. Being in a raised container gives a better view of their classic tulip shape.

April 11

Two days later, fourteen flowers were in full bloom with another beginning to open.
Two days later, fourteen flowers were in full bloom with another beginning to open.
Tulips close their petals at night to protect their delicate centers.
Tulips close their petals at night to protect their delicate centers.

April 11 -- Evening

Each day at dusk they begin to furl their petals. When it gets dark they are so tightly closed that they look more like rosebuds than tulips. It's rather amazing to see how they can open and close multiple times like they do.

At night by flashlight. A bit fuzzy, but you can see the rosebud shape.
At night by flashlight. A bit fuzzy, but you can see the rosebud shape.

April 15th -- Blustery Day

slightly disheveled by the wind, but closing their petals.
slightly disheveled by the wind, but closing their petals.

Another spring storm was blowing up in the afternoon, promising rain and even snow in higher elevations. The brisk breezes were buffeting the tulips around a bit and I began to wonder if they would hold their shape.

The flowers looked a little disheveled but were closing their shutters for the night, some stems were bent over a bit. They are sturdier than you might think.

All of the buds are open now just in time for a weather-related test.

April 16th

By morning, after a cold overnight shower, all but one were standing straight up and the petals were still tightly closed. A few of the flowers had their heads slightly bowed. Through the rest of the day there were showers, light flurries of hail and, yes, some snow.

Uh, Oh -- Snow on the Tulips !

This is an April afternoon in the Sierra foothills. Snow happens.
This is an April afternoon in the Sierra foothills. Snow happens.
Now what ?
Now what ?

I've become rather attached to these particular tulips after observing them closely for more than a week. But I resisted the urge to go out and hold an umbrella over them.

Let nature do what it will.

Snow stopped for a few hours, but then resumed at sundown. Showers and thunderstorms are predicted overnight. Will any tulip survive to see tomorrow's sunshine?

April 17 - Dejection

The blooms look very downhearted and depressed, bowing their heads low in comiseration.
The blooms look very downhearted and depressed, bowing their heads low in comiseration.
Can sunshine revive them?
Can sunshine revive them?

Holland is famous for its tulips of and they do have plenty of rain and cool weather. Their climate is considered to be "moderate marine" because of the influence of the north sea, but they do think a temperature of 70F is a very hot summer day. That being said, tulip bulbs (before they sprout and bloom) need several weeks of chilling between 35 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit to initiate the biochemical process for growth.

If they experience a short cold snap after blooming, they might still rebound.

Recuperation in Progress

Recovering tulips.
Recovering tulips.

Sun is popping in and out from behind the clouds and most of the snow has melted. It doesn't appear that any of the stems are broken; some look like they are beginning to straighten up a bit. The petals do not look damaged.

Updates to Come

I will keep an eye on these and update the life of these flowers, if I think there's more to share. I think their best days have passed, but who knows? There may be more surprises.

If you are a tulip is it better to end your days in a glorious fluffy, freak snowstorm or to gradually wilt away, losing one petal at a time?

Nine Years Ago -- Looking Back

Some of the earlier tulips were redder.
Some of the earlier tulips were redder.

Looking at older photos of tulips I can see that the colors were more vivid in past years. This season they are more orange and yellow, rather than bright red. Still quite pretty, I think.

Perhaps the colors have faded because of my neglect. I know they were planted in good soil originally but I have not given them any special care or feeding.

Other than watering in dry weather I have pretty much ignored them. When the leaves die back, I even forget they are there. I know that some flowers do tend to fade after several seasons.

After they die back I am going to dig out the bulbs and separate them this year and give them bone meal. Maybe.

All good things . . .

As Chaucer and many others have said, "all good things must come to an end". This is true of tulips . . . but they will be back next year.

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    • Rochelle Frank profile image
      Author

      Rochelle Frank 3 weeks ago from California Gold Country

      My tulips are finished for this season, but the wildflowers are starting to bloom in our area. I hope Spring visits you soon. I know the Atlantic coast has had enough of Winter.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Such beautiful photos of one of my favorite flowers. We've had such a cold spring, nothing has yet taken to bloom. Overnight temps have only risen above the freezing point the past couple of days. These beautiful images remind us what we can look forward to. Thank you. :-)

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 4 weeks ago from New Jersey

      I am a garden lover too, although I don't write about it much. I live in NJ, and it's still so cold here. Today is April 20th, and it was still in the 30s last night. So my daffodils are beginning to open, but the tulips are just getting to where I can see the buds.

      Wouldn't it be nice if Spring bulbs lasted longer? We have to enjoy them as fast as they stay!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image
      Author

      Rochelle Frank 4 weeks ago from California Gold Country

      I think they did better this year because we have had lots of cold and frosty mornings in the past couple of months.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      We had tulips growing when we lived in Wisconsin. I had gotten them from my grandmother. We shared them with neighbors prior to moving back to Houston.

      It is too warm down here to have them naturalize and bloom each year. They would have to be dug up and chilled in the refrigerator for quite some time simulating colder weather. It is just too much work at least for this lazy gardener.

      Your tulips are really pretty.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image
      Author

      Rochelle Frank 4 weeks ago from California Gold Country

      I'm more of a vegetable gardener not a flower gardener, Bill. But tulips are worth celebrating.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      We have tulip festivals here in western Washington...pretty spectacular displays.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image
      Author

      Rochelle Frank 4 weeks ago from California Gold Country

      I have. I know that tulips are a favorite of many people. Mine are looking good again today-- cold rain is expected tonight.

    • profile image

      Gerri 4 weeks ago

      Love the pictures. Hope you sent them to Jori - as she loves tulips more than any other flower.

      Gerri

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