Do tulips have to be planted annually?


When I was a child, people had tulips in their gardens that returned every spring to everyone’s delight. Is there anyone who doesn’t love a tulip? Then about 30 years ago I spoke to a landscaper who told me tulips were treated as annuals to be sure they bloomed the next spring. This didn’t make sense to me who always thought of tulips as perennials. Why should a plant that I was used to seeing each spring as perennials now have to be planted as annuals? Was this becoming a racket to make people buy tulip bulbs every fall?

I knew that tulips were native to the dry rocky soils of Turkey where they are its national flower. Were we getting too much rain these days that made the tulips rot in the ground? We may be getting more rain these days, but the tulip bulbs we plant, esp. the big hybrid ones, come from the farms in the Netherlands where they have as much rain as many parts of the US has. So the wetness of the soil should not be the cause.

The other day, I attended a lecture given by a lady who runs the seed and bulb company Harvesting History. I asked her what has happened to tulip bulbs that they have to be planted annually. She said the reason is that today the growers of tulip bulbs clone the plants. I guess they do this to insure the customer that he or she will be getting what was ordered. But cloning weakens the bulb and therefore it is not as strong as an un-cloned bulb. A cloned bulb will not return reliably every year. She said scientists are working on this problem.

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Two Books and a Musical about Tulipmania

Tulipmania by The Great Photographicon

Almost all the gardeners that I know love getting new plants for their garden. But this compulsion to buy more unusual plants is nothing when compared to what happened in Holland in the 1600s.

Tulip mania was what they called what was happening in Holland. The Dutch had recently learned about the beautiful tulip flower which was unlike anything they had ever seen before.The Dutch were not the first to be smitten by the tulip. Long before the tulip was introduced in Europe, in Bavaria in 1559, the flower had enchanted the Persians and bewitched the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. But the Dutch reaction was so much more intense. Flower paintings became extremely popular in the 1630s and 1640s. Such paintings were cheaper than real bouquets – and kept longer!  See here.  They were so enamored with the tulip flower that the Dutch were bidding extraordinarily high levels for the bulbs and speculating on them. Prices of bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.  One person was reputed to have sold his house for 3 bulbs.

And then the market suddenly collapsed.

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How to Protect Tulips from Deer

Red tulips at my place by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi

What is it about tulips that make them so special? Over the years I had felt so frustrated that I couldn’t grow tulips because the animals would eat them. I used to drive by homes that had rows of tulips and wonder why the deer ate mine but not theirs. And then the next year, their tulips, too, disappeared.

One day, I went on a tour of Derek Fell’s garden. Derek Fell is a famous photographer of gardens and flowers among other subjects.  See here. He had opened his property for tours. Derek Fell lives in deer country yet when I visited he had a huge display garden filled with tulips. There was no fence around the entire property, just a low fence around the tulips. I hope my memory serves me about the fence. But a low fence would never keep deer out of a tulip bed. I was amazed. That was when he told me that he used Liquid Fence as a deer and rabbit repellent. It was then and there that I became a believer and started using Liquid Fence on all my plants. And last year, I was rewarded with the tulips I planted the previous fall. They all produced beautiful flowers. Not knowing what to expect, I had bought the cheapest small bulbs that year so that I would not waste money if they were eaten. Wonder of wonder. Here I had tulips flowering once again after a hiatus of at least 30 years. I could not be happier.

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Fall Planting

Bulbs. by don.wing45

Everyone knows that fall is the time to plant many of the bulbs that will bloom in the spring. All the stores are now carrying daffodils, tulips and other bulbs and catalogs are sending out the bulbs you ordered this spring. But fall is also the time to plant other plants for next year’s garden.

TheGardenLady just received a mailing from one of her favorite online rose companies The Antique Rose Emporium   reminding me that fall is probably the best time to plant roses if you live in zone 6 or warmer. Roses planted in the fall acclimate quicker and perform better the following spring. Also, this is a great time to get plant bargains especially in your local nurseries.  Friends of mine have found wonderful roses at discount prices at some of the big box stores that sell plants. Continue reading “Fall Planting”

Now is the time to plant your tulips and daffodils

At the Foot of the Magic Tree by JLMphoto

If you are planning to have tulips or daffodils or any bulbs blooming next spring, this is the perfect time to plant them. Bulbs can be planted in the ground now until the soil freezes so hard that you can not dig it. But even though we are having frosts, so long as the soil is able to be dug, you can continue planting the bulbs.  If you fail to put your bulbs in the soil, pot them and keep them in a cold garage or in a cold refrigerator so that they will also bloom next spring.  Bulbs need that coldness to bloom.

If you plan to buy bulbs in the stores, many of them are now on sale- half price or better, be sure to squeeze the bulbs to make sure that the ones you are buying are hard. Don’t buy any bulbs that are mushy or empty. I would ask to open the package in the store to check before you pay for the bulb. You do not want to buy flowering bulbs that are no longer good. A good bulb feels hard.

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