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All about Tulip Gardens
As the curtain of winter lifts, tulips are one of the first flowers to take the spring stage. As the last drifts of snow seep into the soil, these bright signs of spring dance in the sunlight. However, you don't have to wait for spring to grow tulips. Whether it lies in a bed, under a shrub, in the crevices of a rock garden or in a container, a tulip bulb is an underground flower factory just waiting to "spring up" from whatever soil it occupies.
The whole purpose of a tulip bulb is to flower. In fact, in the center of each bulb, tiny leaves cradle a baby bud. The white, onion-like bulb that surrounds the bud stores all the nutrients that the bud needs to sprout and grow. The only real help the tulip needs to grow is a generous drink of water and some soil to keep it moist.
When selecting bulbs, a simple rule of thumb is that the bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower. Choose plump bulbs that are firm and heavy for their size. Although the tunic (outer papery skin) need not be intact, avoid bulbs that are withered, overly dry, scarred, and have traces of mold, soft spots, or other blemishes. However, more difficult than selecting bulbs is first choosing from the over 100 varieties of tulips which are divided into 15 divisions. Careful selection from different divisions can help you plan a tulip garden that begins in early spring and dances on through the end of May!
1. Single Early
2. Double Early
4. Darwin Hybrids
5. Single Late
11. Double Late (Peony Flowered)
Planting the tulip Bulbs
Although grown in Holland since the late 16th Century, tulips are native to the mountains of Turkey. There, the winters are cold, the spring rains are plentiful and they have cold winters, plenty of water in the spring, and the rest of the year is well? hot! Tulips need the warmth of summer sun to ripen next year's flower buds. However, they need the cold of winter to rest for their lively emergence in spring.
Generally, unplanted bulbs are difficult to keep over winter. Once evening temperatures dip to 50F, it's time to put them in the ground. Fall is also the best time to nourish your tulips. Before you begin planting bulbs, work nutrient rich compost through your soil. Although bulbs will grow in nearly any type of soil, the richer your soil is, the bigger your bulb lift will be next summer. Good drainage is another crucial factor in keeping bulbs healthy.
Plant bulbs two to three times their height. For compact displays, plant them closely together, but not touching. The root side of a bulb is the more rounded side; the pointed side is the part that will open and sprout foliage and flower.
Container Tulip Tips
Choose container size according to the height of your cultivar and the density of your bulb planting. Plant bulbs the same as you would garden grown-tulips, making sure there is at least ½ inch of soil below the planting.
Plant tulips for indoor forcing in September and October. Place pots in a cool garden spot (outdoors) and cover them with an inch of clean soil. When top growth is about ½ -inch to 1-inch, transfer them indoors to a darkened area with a maximum temperature of 60F. Let the stems lengthen for about three weeks and return them to a lighted area with a slightly higher temperature.
Use fresh soil-based potting mixtures only. Peat based mixtures may burn the roots of your bulbs and soil less mixtures dry too quickly.
If putting containers outdoors, protect them from severe frosts particularly when combined with penetrating winds. Store them in a cool area like your garage or wrap with sacking or straw and cover them with plastic bags until the weather is more tulip-friendly.
It is essential to keep tulip containers sufficiently watered. Unlike garden grown plants, those in containers cannot seek for water deeper within their environment. Dry pots result in stunted and shriveled flower heads.
When tulips are done flowering, either snip the stem or deadhead the bloom. However, let the leaves die naturally. This is the time the bulb absorbs the nutrients it needs for next year's growth. When the foliage becomes discolored, remove it to prevent "tulip fire", which can poison your soil. This is also a good time to lift any tulip bulbs that you want to remove from your garden.
Lifting bulbs isn't any more complex than digging them out of the ground or dumping them out of the pot. Usually each bloom produces one good-sized bulb and two smaller offshoots that can be discarded. Allow lifted bulbs to dry naturally. Then store them somewhere cool in an airy container (net produce bags and burlap bags work well) to provide good circulation until next planting time.
When tulips produce foliage but no flowers, the most probable cause is damage caused by slugs or snails. Although liquid slug killers are available from most garden centers, most of them are toxic to beneficial organisms and insects in your garden as well as your pets and your family. The easiest way to deter slugs from invading your tulips is to create a barrier of lava rock or diatomaceous earth around your tulips. Both have sharp edges that kill invading pests by cutting into their skin and causing them to dry up. Another effective way to control slugs is with beer traps. Partially filled cans buried up to the lip will attract and drown slugs.
Linda is an author of Gardening Tips Tricks and Howto's. The next part of this article is available at our site Gardening-Guides.com, where you can also download the whole series as a free full color e-book.
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