Tulips – and all plants grown from bulbs – are perhaps the best example of Nature at work. And they are also like a children’s surprise treat.
It’s amazing watching deciduous plants show buds, then blossom and/or leaves. But they been there for all to see all winter. With bulbs, there is something magical about a bare patch of soil you have done nothing to for months or even years coming to life.
Especially if you’ve forgotten what exactly you planted!
A multitude of shades
There’s a Wikipedia entry that says tulips are ‘generally red, yellow, or white’. In fact, they come in a multitude of shades, with pinks and purples common – and plenty of stripes. Blue is rare, and arguably not a true blue.
Black tulips were the ‘holy grail’ for tulip growers, with five centuries of attempts only producing dark purples. Until 1986, when Dutch grower Geert Hageman succeeded when all else had failed. These things don’t happen overnight, and his black tulip ‘Paul Scherer’ took another eleven years before it could be brought into commercial production.
Tulips from Amsterdam
‘Tulips’ and ‘Holland’ go together like ‘bread’ and ‘butter’. Even in song! All together now: ‘When it’s spring again, I’ll bring again, tulips from Amsterdam…’
In fact, Amsterdam has its own tulip museum.
They have a website amsterdamtulipmuseum.com
where you can find the answer to questions like: like how many tulips are there? Where does the tulip get its name? Is the plant native to Holland? And: When to plant?
It’s well known that Holland was swept, in the 1600s, with Tulipomania. There have been many speculative ‘bubbles’ over the centuries – the 1990s dot.com bubble being a recent example. In the 1630s, speculators in Holland were trading bulbs for ridiculous prices – we’re talking one bulb selling for twice the average earnings of a well-off merchant.
Everyone wanted a slice of the action and converted their assets into cash and invested in the flowers.
It couldn’t last, and crashed in 1637, putting the whole of the Dutch economy into gloom for several years.
Like just about everything, tulips grow best in well-drained soil. They love the sun (ideally about six hours a day) and hate strong winds and excessively wet conditions.
However, in my experience, if you plant the bulbs in pots/tubs, they don’t seem too fussy afterwards!
Do they last for years? Some sites say no, unless you look after them – dead-heading them after flowering, then cutting the foliage down when it has died back.
However, a neighbour who spends roughly zero hours a month working in his gardens has a great display of yellow tulips I’m sure were planted by the previous owners.
And ok, not the same flower – but in the wild, no one goes round dead-heading daffodils, bluebells, etc, and they still manage to come back every year!
Which brings me to price
If you want a particular colour, or guarantee of success and quality, for sure pay for it. If you’re willing to take a bit of pot luck… the ones in my garden this year came from a mixed bag of bulbs that cost about £5 from a general bargains shop. The crocuses turned out to be purple (which is cool). The alliums have yet to come to anything but foliage. And you can see a couple of the tulips in the photos.