Twelve Days of Tulips: Buds, Blooms and Beyond
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
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
April 9th -- First Blooms
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.
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.
April 15th -- Blustery Day
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.
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 !
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
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
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
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.