Too much money

Some complaints will never get you any sympathy, and to complain that tulips are coming up and blooming in all sorts of odd places probably ranks right up there.  Truth be told it’s not a problem, but when every batch of compost seems to hold a new crop of bulbs, the spring planting in the parterre becomes a little more complicated.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Once again the vegetable garden is a complicated mess of far too many flowers and far too few edibles.

For all my failures in the garden, tulips seem to be one plant which enjoys the poorly draining, heavy soil of the flower beds.  It’s a surprise to see this considering many references suggest a loamy, free draining soil for your best chances at success, and even then it’s a safer bet to treat tulips as one or two year treat.  Fortunately no one has whispered this little secret into the ears of my bulbs and they keep coming back and multiplying.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Having a few tulips in the way is just the excuse I need to skip digging too deeply when it comes to planting the spring vegetables. 

I think I do know the secret though.  The soil may be heavy but it’s also thin and dries out relatively quickly once the heat of summer settles in, and if I do manage to drag my lazy self away from the pool to water it’s never a solid deep watering, it’s always a guilty stand around with a hose until things look less dead kind of triage.  I can’t imagine much of the water ever penetrates deeper than two or three inches and for this the heavy soil works to an advantage.  My tulips like a hot, dry summer similar to their ancestral haunts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia and most years (unfortunately) this is what my garden resembles.

tulips in the vegetable garden

Tulips in the onions, tulips in the lettuce.  I try to replant stray bulbs closer to the edges, but there are always more little bulblets in the compost or stray bulbs dug around in the soil.

When I was more ambitious I used to fill several of the beds each fall and then dig them again in June after the foliage died down.  It was a glorious spring explosion but one bad experience soured me to the whole deal and I ended up tossing hundreds of fat promising bulbs.  They really do need a good drying out over the summer and when mine all molded up and rotted one damp August I put a stop to the project.  But…. I can’t promise it won’t happen again some day 🙂

lettuce self sown seedlings

If all goes well this batch of tulip leaves should put out two or three blooms next year.  Not bad for a weed, and if you notice there are more weeds in the lawn, in this case lettuce seedlings from last years neglected plantings.

So to sum it up my tulips don’t mind a nice heavy fertile soil while they’re growing, the just need to follow it up with a warm dry summer rest.  Planting them in a spot which dries out and doesn’t get summertime irrigation is one option, actually digging them up and storing them in a hot, dry, ventilated area until fall planting is another.  Just be prepared to have more tulips than you know what to do with since most tulips will at least double in number every growing season.

double early tulip

Leftover Easter flowers from two or three years ago.  Let them bloom and grow as long as possible in their pot and then stick them into some out of the way spot, preferably one where they will not be overrun with bearded iris 🙂

Although most people recommend species tulips and Darwin types for the best chance at perennializing,  I don’t notice that much of a difference between the types.  Give them all a try is my advice, but for best results regardless of type you will have to dig and divide the bulbs every three or four years  when they begin to get crowded.

perennial Darwin hybrid tulips

A few stray tulips snuck in with the compost for this new snowdrop bed.  With snowdrop season long gone I’m quite happy to see the tulips flowering in a carpet of my favorite annual weed, purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum). 

Alas, even plants relatively happy with their homes do not always lead perfect lives.  The tulip season may be a little sparse next year for two reasons, both of which revolve around the weather.  The first is our harsh April freeze which damaged many of the buds and much of the blooms for this year’s show.  That in itself could be tolerable, but in the weeks since the weather has remained damp and cool, and many of the damaged plants are now falling victim to gray mold (Botrytis).  Botrytis is bad news and seems to stick around for a few years even after better weather returns.  I’m wondering how many of the affected plants will be going on to tulip heaven…

tulip virus candy apple

Not to go on and on about this late freeze, but here’s yet another example of damaged foliage and stunted blooms.  To top it off I also suspect virus in the streaked blossoms of what should really be a solid colored flower. 

All is not lost though.   I still love tulips and would grow a few even if they only made it a year or so before falling victim to whatever tragedies visit my garden next.

tulip marit

Tulip ‘Marit’ is a favorite this year.  I don’t remember such round flowers last year but the shape and color this year really won me over. 

In the meantime I will keep my fingers crossed.  I far prefer being spoiled for choice as far as tulips go, and if it means working around a few bulbs here and there that’s fine with me.

tulip pink impression

Tulip ‘pink impression’ in the front border.  They’re huge and pink and although battered by the weather they’re still the crowning glory of the border.

Have a great Sunday and happy mother’s day to the moms!

36 comments on “Too much money

  1. Pauline says:

    I wish I had your problem with tulips, with me they just disappear in our wet winters. You have a wonderful colourful display, long may it continue.

  2. Christina says:

    Wonderful display after you predicted that there wouldn’t be any tulips this year. Sorry about the nasty mould; will it affect other things do you think.

    • bittster says:

      I don’t think the mold will spread, it seems to only attack the tulips but when it’s at its worst the entire plant goes to mush. I refuse to spray though. There will be other things to take their place I hope and the trouble of spraying just seems too much bother.

  3. Paula J Squitiere says:

    Cheerful tulips, always looks nice. I don’t care where they pop up either. One nice purple and white streaked variety I planted several of last fall were all chewed by rabbits.

    • bittster says:

      My rabbits prefer crocus foliage and lettuce leaves…. only the butterheads though, they turn their noses up at the regular leaf lettuce 🙂

  4. I try to plant my tulips at the edge of shrub borders to give them half a chance at hot and dry. The shrubs will suck the water up, giving the tulips half a chance at coming back. I have clay soil, too, but it’s more likely to be wet than dry. I think we get more rain than you do. Daffodils are far more reliable for me.

    • bittster says:

      That’s a good idea and something I might consider now that about a third of my tulips seemed to have melted away from all the rain and damp! Still I do think you get more rain than we do. I remember my school days in upstate Ny and my amazement when we reached a second straight month of endless rain and drizzle and it finally changed to endless flurries and snow 🙂

  5. pbmgarden says:

    Tulip ‘pink impression’ looks great.

  6. Cathy says:

    I have never had any of my tulips spread much, so you must be doing something right! And who is to judge whether tulips belong in the veg bed or not. After all, the traditional cottage gardens mixed flowers with edibles didn’t they? I hope your tulips continue to flourish Frank!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Cathy!
      My vegetable beds have become so heavily infested with flowers I’ve started to consider planting the warm weather vegetables in the perennial border! They need a good redo and sometimes there’s nothing better than starting from scratch 🙂

  7. Yes, no sympathy here! I envy you the ability to grow tulips outside the bounds of a fence! ‘Marit’ is just lovely–I’m a sucker for the apricot/yellow/pink combo, in case you haven’t noticed! I don’t even bother trying to get mine to come back, since they’re in the veggie garden. I just pull them out when they’re done blooming and chuck them (but not into the compost–they go to the woods, where I’m sure someone eats them!) Maybe this year I’ll try drying and saving the bulbs . . . I could hang them from the rafters in the garage . . .

    • bittster says:

      If you have enough self control and can put off planting the tomatoes for an extra week or two, it matches up perfectly with the yellowing of the tulip foliage and you can dig one while planting the other.. and the garage is perfect for them 🙂
      Up until a few years ago we were surrounded by barren expanses of mine tailings and culm banks. When they cleared that out for the industrial park they planted grass and that has brought in woodchucks and deer…. my phlox have been ‘pruned’ this spring and I nearly hit a deer a few houses down the road so it’s possible my fenceless days are numbered 😦
      There’s always daffodils right?

  8. Cathy says:

    A lesson in letting go for all of us! Your approach seems to work, I have looked and learnt.

    • bittster says:

      I am very comfortable with just ‘letting go’ in the garden 🙂
      For some reason I’ve been missing all your latest posts and have so much to catch up on with your blog. The iris photos are amazing and your garden continues to grow by leaps and bounds. I feel entirely lazy when I look at all you’ve done (and imagine all the treks up and down your staircase)!
      This is the time of year when I consider planting nothing other than iris but your garden visits and those hedges have me thinking about structure. I need hedges 🙂

      • Cathy says:

        Glad you enjoyed! I think all of us who are busy in our own gardens, and yet interested in those of our blogging friends as well, feel there’s never enough time in the spring!

  9. Chloris says:

    How lovely they look too. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have tulips that spread and flourish. Mine come back for one year and look sulky. They then disappear entirely. It takes a very deep purse here to keep a garden stocked with tulips and then do it again every year. Not to mention the wear and tear on the back.

    • bittster says:

      I may have run out my tulip luck…. Freeze damage followed by damp and botrytis have melted about a third of the plantings and I don’t hold much hope for next year’s show. Looks like it might be time to move on to daffodils (although they have their problems here as well with a plague of bulb flies rising whenever the pesticides miss a spot)
      It’s my policy to avoid any excess wear and tear on the back or opening of the purse strings so there might be even more weedy daisies and thistles this summer.

  10. Do you have a critter problem re: the tulips? No tulips here at the Temporary Garden, but at my previous garden I’d find that about 25% of the ones I planted were unearthed at some point before their spring bloom. Then again, an entire group of tommy crocus which are supposed to be critterproof was dug up and spread hither and yon one year, so maybe they had eccentric tastes! 😉

    • bittster says:

      For some odd reason the tulips are generally left alone by our local critters…. but keep in mind I have yet to find voles in the garden, that would be the end to my tulip days.
      The wildlife seems much more interested in young phlox foliage and crocus leaves. The vegetables are also favorites for the rabbits and deer. Squirrels on the other hand fear the open skies and frequent hawk fly-bys and don’t do much bulb digging and crocus eating!
      Yeah my tommy crocus disappear just as quickly as the others, I’m not sure who came up with the critterproof label.

      • I found a dead vole in the shed last year, so they are definitely in this area although I never saw one during all the years I lived on the South Shore and mid-island. Guess my tulip-growing days are over, LOL

  11. Lucky you….here tulips are iffy and do not usually grow back…if they do it is not for long.

  12. Annette says:

    I think your garden looks very cheerful, Frank, and by the way I’ve experienced the same here with the tulips. They quite like my heavy soil which is often water logged in winter. Even the little species tulips don’t mind and multiply. I had Tulipa whittallii though in a bed at the base of the house and they all disappeared because it’s too dry there. Mice are a problem in places and the cause for the disappearance of many crocuses. We (snakes, owls and us!) can’t keep up with the speed they reproduce…the mice that is. Well, there are always ups and downs in the garden, as long as the ups outweigh the latter, let’s be happy 🙂

    • bittster says:

      I agree Annette, happy it is!
      I see occasional snakes about and I’d like to think the plantings and mulch and general stewardship of the land has invited them in. I just worry that the mice and voles will also take advantage of the welcome mat. If that’s the case I will say goodbye to the crocus as well and hope that other equally pleasant things surprise me when they move in.
      I would love to see or hear an owl in the garden. Maybe when the trees mature… give or take 50 years 😉

  13. Indie says:

    So wonderful that they are so happy in your garden! I just love the shape of that ‘Marit’ one. I wish they were as happy in mine – unfortunately the deer love them too much for me to grow many. This year I got lots of leaves, but I was unable to keep up with the deer repellant and the deer got almost every last bloom!

    • bittster says:

      So far I’ve escaped the curse of deer, but yesterday my son informed me he scared one out of the garden earlier in the week. I’ll have to check into this story since the tales of nine year olds sometimes drift far from fact.
      We will see if my luck holds up in the tulip department. If it means spraying for deer I will also be planting more dafffs!

  14. Indie says:

    Btw, I’d be up for a daffodil swap, as I have a couple clumps I have to dig up myself! What’s your e-mail address? I’m at

    • bittster says:

      I realized after I left my comment that finding my email would be next to impossible for you, yet I could have easily found yours right there on your blog page 🙂
      I’ve sent a message so let me know if it doesn’t make it. Have a great weekend!

  15. Tulips can certainly be unpredictable, but I think your explanation as to their perennial tendencies in your garden makes sense. I can see why ‘Marit’ is one of your favorites.

  16. […] of katob427 (location: Pennsylvania) says that it doesn’t matter what tulip variety you plant, and also […]

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