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.

So this year I ordered more tulips and other bulbs. I have already planted 61 tulip bulbs in front of the area where I had previously grown tulips and where I have lots of daffodils. In the spring I plan on seeing the daffodils first and when they finish, I will have tulips. In the past I had tried to deceive the animals by planting the tulip bulbs that are edible among the daffodil bulbs that are poisonous. It worked and the tulips grew; but then the squirrels ate the flowers.

This year the tulip bulbs have been planted in the front of my entire house. Because of last year’s success, this year I bought the largest bulbs I could find in bright yellows/gold, reds, whites and pinks. l hope that I won’t be disappointed. I know that I will have to get out to spray Liquid Fence the minute I see any emerging tulip growth and continue to spray as the tulips grow taller and also spray the flowers when they emerge. But it will be worth the work.

As I wrote previously, I put red pepper flakes and moth balls into the holes with the bulb plant food and the bulb. Then I covered the hole and put black pepper and Tabasco sauce and hot chili sauce on top of the soil. Many nursery people told me they use the red pepper flakes, but no one said they use hot stuff on top of the soil. There are cages that you can use to plant tulip bulbs in (see here), but to me this becomes a big expense that I would rather spend on plants. And I find it hard enough work to dig the 9 inch holes just for the bulbs. With the contraptions one has to make a larger hole. I am considering buying a role of chicken wire to lay on top of the strip where I planted the tulip bulbs. Deer don’t like to step on chicken wire and perhaps the rodents will not want to burrow through the wire.

Many nursery people and gardeners treat tulips as annuals and replace them each year. I cannot afford to do that, so I am hoping my tulips will last longer than one year. Hybrid tulips last 7 or 8 years in their native areas, so if I can get half that time out of them, I will be lucky.

One can get wonderful tulip bulbs locally in so many stores. But I like to buy great bulbs that come straight from Holland. My favorite places to order bulbs from are Breck’s Nursery and John Scheepers, Inc.  and Van Engelen, Inc.

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