Eden horticulturist Shirley Walker reflects on the recent mass planting of tulips at Eden, which will ensure a colourful floral extravaganza here in the spring.
The annual tulip ‘plantathon’ came to Eden last month and the whole horticulture team along with our hard-working volunteers got together to spend a few hours on our hands and knees, carefully planting the tulip bulbs that will wow our visitors in the spring. You may be forgiven for thinking it’s a little late for planting tulips, and you would be right; however, these have been planted in our Mediterranean Biome where warmer conditions enable us to delay planting and still have a wonderful display in early spring. I often plant mine at home as late as December to reduce the risk of tulip fire.
Shirley's choice of tulip varieties
Spring 2014 at Eden promises to be the most vibrant and spectacular yet. We have planted 24,000 tulip bulbs in the Mediterranean Biome, in a myriad of rainbow colours that will cheer us all after a long winter. We have planted nearly 100 different varieties of tulip this year and these are just a few of my favourites:
- Angelique is an exquisite double tulip with many petals of the palest pink, changing to apple-blossom pink at the edges
- The world’s first blue fringed variety, Blue Heron, is a real charmer! The violet-purple petals lighten to pale lilac at the crystalline, fringed edges.
- Queen of Night is the classic, luscious black tulip with petals the texture of silk. Try pairing this with an orange variety, like Orange Princess for a stunning display.
- I like to send off the season with this stunning, late-flowering variety, Red Georgette. The blood-red goblets, set against grey-green foliage, gradually open to reveal bowls of saturated colour.
My top culinary tip: The petals of fragrant tulips can be used in salads. Try Ballerina for the colour, flavour and aroma of oranges!
Say it with flowers!
I love to see a vase overflowing with tulips and nothing comes close to the incredible range of colours available. Choose the popular single, late-flowering varieties with long, sturdy stems, large, oval flower heads and surprisingly long vase life. My particular favourite is Blue Aimable, one of the best shades of blue I’ve seen in a tulip.
Little gems: smaller tulips
I love the little species of tulips – they look like sparkling jewels in the garden. These tiny, brightly coloured flowers have their origins in far-away places like Uzbekistan, Iran and the Caucasus, where it is hot and dry in summer and cold in winter and they thrive on dry, stony hillsides. Some are so small their little heads are only three or four inches above the ground!
Whenever I buy species bulbs, I always look for the label, ‘Bulbs grown from cultivated stock’. This means that they have come from a sustainable source and not taken from the wild. Apparently, more than 50 million bulbs are wild-sourced illegally every year and this is having a devastating effect on wild populations. Conservation organisations are working with local people and Dutch bulb growers to provide alternative incomes and promote artificial propagation on a local basis.
Shirley's top tips for a stunning tulip display
- Remember, tulips look great in formal and informal bedding schemes and in pots.
- Always buy good quality bulbs.
- Plant growing point upper-most, to a depth of two and a half times the height of the bulb.
- Bulbs can be planted close together so long as they are not touching.
- Plant a mixture of early, mid and late season varieties for a long-lasting display.
- Dwarf species tulips look great in containers and rock gardens but make sure they come from a sustainable source.
Tulip Fire disease
This is a fungal disease that causes foliage to become distorted and covered in a fuzzy, grey fungal growth. The flowers either fail to open or are marked with bleached spots. I grow my tulips at home in a different bed each year to help keep this disease at bay. Destroy any infected tulip bulbs.