Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Flower Favorite: The Tulip

Striking salmon parrot tulips displayed on the bulb in an "aquarium glass" vase

Tulips breathe spring into our shop each year, starting around the Christmas holidays. We bring them in from Holland for close to six months of the year, as well as buying them on the bulb from our local flower farmer at Mockingbird Hill Farm. Each season we elevate certain flowers to our favorites list, and the tulip is one of those. The amazing colors, shapes, and sizes of the varieties we purchase are just one of the reasons we love them.

These parrot tulips have long, curly green petals interspersed with the bicolor petals

Parrot tulips are beautiful and painterly with touches of brushed color on the petals. They are one of the longest lasting of the tulip varieties, and the blooms continue to grow after they have been picked. French tulips are prized by many for the simple elegance of the large blossom on a unusually long slender stem. These French lovelies are so called because the French have perfected them through a process that keeps them cooler for a longer growing spell before cutting.

In a midday show, these open parrots will close for the evening

Double tulips with a lemon yellow stripe

The soft brown "tunic" should be removed
Local gardeners tend to shy away from tulips since they don't produce flowers year after year the way narcissus do. We think the simple beauty of the tulip blossom is well worth the effort. If you choose to purchase bulbs, this would be the occasion to spend a little more on larger ones. When it comes to bulbs, size matters so choose a variety that is at least 12 centimeters in circumference. For a more robust blossom, add compost and bone meal to the soil and plant the bulbs 8" to 12" below ground.  If your bulbs have their "tunic" (the soft brown skin surrounding the bulb) gently peel that off so they can establish roots more quickly. If you can put your hands on flowers that are still on the bulb, once the blossoms are spent they can be planted right away in your own yard. Cut the bloom, leave the foliage, and water them well. You should get one or two years of full flowering.

The Menton variety adapts to the yard better than Parrot varieties

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