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!

Plant those bulbs deep

It might be optimism, it might be delusion, it might be weakness, but whatever it is around here there always seems to be an unreasonable amount of bulbs in need of planting….  or there might not be enough.  No one is ever really sure but one thing is definite.  I have never regretted planting too many bulbs, so until I do it’s always better to err on the side of caution and overdo it if possible.

planting spring bulbs

Last weekend I tried to put everything out in order to see exactly what still needs planting.  Tiny bulbs add up, and this innocent collection is well over 1,100 bulbs.

There’s no denying that I’m a bulboholic and I think if you keep up with this blog you already know that fact.  They’re my favorite plant type and for good reason.  Each spring they just explode into growth, bloom like there’s no tomorrow, and then politely fade away, all within a few weeks.  They’re like a spring fling which burns hot and then ends on good terms.

Somehow the bulbs just find me during the summer.  I dig a clump of daffodils to thin them, find a clump of tulips when moving something else, more daffodils come out when I move a bed… before you know it there are bulbs in saucers, bags, and boxes all over the garage, plus a few I pick up at the nursery.  This year an early clearance sale at Van Engelen’s added a few hundred more crocus and muscari.  You can’t overdo crocus and muscari, so obviously those needed to be purchased as well.  Since I don’t enjoy planting bulbs, 850 new crocus corms can border on autumn torture so I try to deal with them as efficiently and quickly as possible.  Here’s a trick I read online which I now love that really moves things along when planting larger numbers of small bulbs.

naturalizing crocus bulbs

Tools of the trade for naturalizing larger numbers of small bulbs in turf.  Gloves, masonry hammer and small bucket stolen from the children.

A masonry hammer seemed necessary at some point for chipping stones and breaking cinderblocks, but it’s now become invaluable for planting small bulbs in the turf of the meadow garden.  Using a shovel is much more work than I’m willing to do and when you’re trying to naturalize bulbs, or make them look like they just seeded out into your lawn on their own, then digging large sections of turf up is just out of the question.  I find the hammer much easier to use.  One swing and it’s into the ground, a pivot back and you have just the hole you need for a tiny bulb or two.

naturalizing crocus and small bulbs

One down, 849 to go.

I start off carefully, trying to get the sprouting end up and the bulb gently eased down into the hole, but after the first 100 they’re getting dropped in and jammed down whichever way works.  A quick swipe with the hammer also closes the hole.  After about an hour and a half (including two 20 minute breaks to unlock my knees and back) all the bulbs were in.  People talk about the joys of gardening but for me I far prefer sitting back after the job’s done and visualizing the results.  I have plenty of other things which need doing in and out of the house, so the less time spent prepping cute little holes and overdoing a job the better.  If one had to sum up my entire bulb planting philosophy I think ‘shallow graves’ might not be the worst term to apply.  For larger tulips and daffodils I’m not above digging out a shovelful or two of dirt, throwing in a handful of bulbs and carelessly kicking the dirt back over them without bothering to prep the soil or put the bulbs right side up again.  In the vegetable garden some bulbs go into trenches so shallow that by the time the compost rots away from above them the tops of the bulbs are actually at the soil surface…. although this has just as much to do with thin soil and poor drainage as it does with a lack of enthusiasm for digging.

shallow tulip bulbs

These tulips might be on the shallow side. The original bulbs have split in two and both appear to be healthy blooming size bulbs, but if left uncovered mice and rabbits will likely find them and have a nibble.

I often read that in order to have bulbs such as tulips last longer and re-bloom reliably they should be planted as deep as possible, sometimes up to a foot deep.  This sounds like a lot of unnecessary work and I’m completely against it.  Perhaps a shallow bulb is more likely to split due to stress such as drought, but for the most part mine come back best when the spring is long and cool, tulips are deadheaded (daffs and hyacinths don’t seem to care), and tulips are either dug up for the summer or not watered in a spot which is nice and dry.  Planting depth, as long as it’s at least a couple inches down, doesn’t seem to factor in much at all and unless someone shows me actual research to prove otherwise I’m going to say deep planting is one of those often repeated bits of advice which don’t really do much here or there.

pink impression tulips

I planted these ‘Pink Impression’ tulips a few years ago and finally got around to getting more this fall. The new bulbs are from a good nursery and huge, so I know they’ll add to an even more awesome show next spring!

So we’ll see this spring if my lazy planting methods pay off again.  Good soil prep and proper planting depth are always a great thing, but I prefer to not overthink gardening.  If a squirrel can successfully plant sunflowers and oak trees throughout my flower beds, and the best iris can survive a year under the compost pile, I think I can pop a few bulbs into the ground without a PhD and still get good results.  I’m already looking forward to seeing the ‘bulked up’  meadow plantings next spring.

crocus lawn of dreams

The crocus plantings in the meadow garden began with approximately 500 bulbs,  this fall I’ve more than doubled that number 🙂

Two issues may still stand in my way.  Rabbits have huge appetites once they discover fresh crocus flowers, so I may have to do something about that come springtime.  The second worry is that the mixed crocus were irresistibly cheap when compared to the single color varieties I had been planting in the past.  Hopefully the Technicolor patches look as nice as the solid color patches I have now.  I did try to keep the single colors closer together and the mixed ones more spread out but who knows how this naturalizing theory will work out in the real garden.  If worse comes to worse the bunnies will make quick work of any mistakes.

Have a great weekend and I’d love to hear which bulbs have made the cut for you this year.  One request though,  please don’t rub it in too much that you’ve already completed your planting 🙂

Adios Spring

It always gives me a sense of sadness when spring rolls into summer.  All the anticipation, the return of growing things, and the new life makes spring my favorite season, but it goes too fast.  One after another things rush into bloom, have their day in the sun (or freezing drizzle) and then are gone for another 11 months.  It’s definitely a “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” season and it comes and goes in a rush as we hurry to get everything done before the heat and humidity settle in…..

When the first rose opens I call it summer and I face the fact that not all the projects are going to happen like they were supposed to.  So time to regroup, sit back, and get into porch and pool mode.  A couple 90 degree days push it along and before you know it spring is a memory and you’re into the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Clematis “multiblue” is carrying over from spring.  I bought it as something else and got this overfluffed flower.  Not something I would pick for myself but its become a favorite.  A “didn’t happen” project from spring was moving it out of the veggie garden and getting a real structure for it to grow on instead of bush trimmings…..clematis multiblue

Clematis “Ruutel”  is also struggling along in a less than deserving position.  I have trouble finding spots for clematis,  I think I prefer them growing up small shrubs but never manage to get a good pairing.clematis ruutel

A new favorite for this time of year is “Ray’s Golden Campion”.  It flowers during my spring lull and does a good job covering dying spring bulb foliage.  I have some seed left and will be starting a few more this summer, they were a gift from Nan Ondra at Hayefield and I couldn’t be happier with the color of bloom and yellow leaves…. it’s another plant that could use better companions though.ray's golden campion

I think this is peony “Do Tell”.  It’s blooming happily in the middle of the vegetable garden.  The reason I’m not sure of its identity is because out of a bag of three this is the only one matching the description.  Now I’ve never seen an ugly peony (yet) so it’s not the worst thing to have happen, but I guess it falls under the ‘get what you pay for’ heading…. they were clearance Van Engelen and the other one (the third hasn’t bloomed yet) is a big fat fragrant double pink so it’s win-win so far.peony do tell

Just about all my plantings are on the redo list.  Sometimes it’s not entirely my fault, but I guess it depends on how you assign blame.  By definition I never really “planted” any of these iris, they’re the result of using not-quite-ready compost as a top dressing before putting down shredded wood mulch.  It speaks of the hardiness of bearded iris that the rhizomes could survive a couple of months in the rotting compost pile and then still come back to life but I guess it also speaks of my laziness.  I never actually prepped the soil in this bed, just planted the stewartia and hostas right into the turf, covered the in between grass areas with a couple of layers of newspaper to smother it, covered the paper with compost and then topped off with mulch.  No one seems to mind and maybe when I plant better things here I’ll do soil prep.yellow bearded iris

I did do soil prep for the tulips but in the vegetable beds it’s easy.  They’re starting to die down now which means bulb digging and then bean and squash planting.  Even though I did go through the effort of soil prep, I may have done some shallow planting last fall.  I don’t think they’re supposed to be this close to the surface and showing signs of sunburn.  It will be interesting to see if shallow planting effects bulb size since usually deep planting is recommended in order to keep tulips from splitting.  A real problem is that bunnies like to eat the exposed bulbs.  It’s possible this isn’t the first shallow planting of tulips and bunnies may have attacked last year.  But they need their vitamins too.shallow tulip bulbs

 

 

 

Tulip Time!

There must be some Dutch in me because I’m a little wacky about tulips.  Not real bad, I don’t collect every kind and have them all over the place (my criteria for plant wackiness), but I’m always adding a few new ones…. and then I feel some kind of urge to tend them and multiply them and replant them.  It should end once this relatively new garden starts to fill up, but for now I can indulge that inner Dutch.

The rain and cold kept them shut for a while, but even then they looked nice (these are pictures from early last week).  Four years ago I bought this blend on clearance as a generic “darwin mix”… it was nearly all orange, so I threw in a couple pinks just beacause I had them.darwin tulips

"sweetheart" tulip "geranium daffodil

The “sweatheart” tulips were new this year, don’t know why I bought a lemon meringue colored tulip when I have so many daffodils in similar colors…..

Also new was the “Princely mix” from Van Engelen.  Not sure what’s in it, but again…. on clearance… can’t beat this color for around$15.  Plus I spread the other half of the box around the rest of the beds :)The random white peeling post is our attractive front light.  The less you see of that the better.

princely mix tulips

pink impression tulips“Pink Impression” (also new) is always a winner.  I’ve bought it before but have gotten other, similar tulips instead.  This looks to be the real thing  and the flowers are huge!

Tulips will last much longer in cool weather, but when a warm sunny day finally hits (like we had last week) the flowers open wide and you know it’s finally full, head-on spring.orange darwin tulips

I just go around on days like this and get nothing done.  It’s too tempting to just sit around, enjoy the sun and admire the season.  Since the vegetable garden is the easiest place to plant out your excess tulips, that’s where most end up.  I’ll regret this in a couple of weeks as I’m scratching my head looking for a spot to stick a tomato.  mixed darwin tulips

I don’t really cut too many for the house, most of the picking is done by the kids.  A couple end up at grandma’s, some get planted in the mulch, many get pulled apart and thrown, and random neighbors often get deliveries in exchange for an ice pop or cookie.tulip pickers

double early tulipsDaddy sometimes gets a flower, but much of his time is spent protecting the double tulips, since they seem to be particularly attractive to flower collectors.  The doubles have started to grow on me though.  Ever since I bought this mix of early doubles called “magic carpet”, I’m finding an excuse to keep them around (even though the singles are still so much more graceful).  To me the doubles look like huge fluffy wads of tissue paper…. but wow!  that’s some fluff!

temple of beauty tulipMy favorites might be the ones just coming into bloom now.  The late tulips seem to have the most subtle blends and nicest forms.  If you ignore the color clashes in this planting and just look at the color and almost lily shape of these fruity colored “Temple of Beauty” tulips, I think you might like them a little too, even with the crappy camera focus.

 

Tulip season is a little past peak now with the earliest ones already going by.  The pickers are still keeping busy and I’ll be busy too when I need to dig them all up out of the veggie garden.  That’s a job for June though,  May is for enjoying flowers.tulip picking