Tuesday View: The Front Border 5.23.17

So Tuesday is here again and although I just posted the view last week it would be a shame to ignore the irises which have come along since then.

street border

The Tuesday view showing the beginning of iris season.  Still lots of green but the iris are peaking!

Bearded iris are a favorite, and the older “historic” types just beg to be planted en masse in this full sun, often dry, and always exposed, location.  There’s little I have to do for them other than give them a little attention in June when I remove the spent flower stalks and pull up any borer infested plants I find.

iris ambassadeur

The view from the other end.  For now iris ‘ambassadeur’ is center stage, but will soon be swamped by the variegated arundo donax grass which is only just beginning to sprout.   

Besides the color these older iris also are also very generous with their lemony and grape fragrances.  My favorite is this bitoned iris which was growing in my parent’s garden when they bought their first (and current) house back in the 70’s.  After years of wondering, this spring I am officially naming it ‘Folkwang’, a German iris introduced in 1925 by the nursery of Goos & Koenemann.

iris folkwang

My newly named iris ‘Folkwang’ plus a lonely little lupine and a few alliums.

To search for a name for years may be a little obsessive, but it’s not like I was at it 24/7.  A little looking here, a little looking there until finally I found one which really looked close.  To seal the deal I searched high and low for a source, ordered myself a rhizome, planted it out last fall (and a few others of course), and finally this spring got to compare the named one to my own.

iris folkwang

I think it’s a match.  Iris ‘Folkwang’ on the right and a flower of my unknown to the left.

So maybe naming an unknown iris does border on the obsessive, but in the grand scheme of things it’s nothing when compared to how much time I spent this week planting dahlias and cannas and getting a garden ready for the whole half dozen people who might notice… yet again I digress.  It’s iris season, it must be enjoyed.

iris rhages

Iris ‘rhages’ looking a little pale this year.  Usually the flowers show much more spotting, but it’s still a beauty.

There are a decent amount of iris around the garden but to be honest I think I could use a few more.  In past years I spread iris ‘Rhages’ to the other side of the driveway, and they’re now the more impressive clumps compared to the little batch I have growing next to the mailbox.

iris rhages

Iris ‘rhages’ plus more iris next door in my BIL’s garden.  I wonder how he’d feel if I added a few other colors…

I am trying and trying so hard not to give in to the temptations of the newer, bigger, flouncier bearded iris.  They’re so much more of everything, but I just don’t find them as carefree and reliable as the older sorts, and in my garden once the pool and lawn chair start calling I need a certain amount of carefree.

bearded iris

An unknown modern iris which a friend forced onto me.  I couldn’t just let it die so in an out of the way corner of the garden it flowers and offends only me. 

I’m trying to decide which other iris I should add to the front street border.  Should I stick with the blue tones or just throw everything out there?

iris picador

I go back and forth between love and boredom on the mustardy reds of iris ‘Picador’.  I’m just not sure if this color will work out front so in the meantime it stays out back near the meadow.

I might have to make an exception for a cousin of my newly named ‘Folkwang’.  Iris ‘Vingolf’ is also a product of the breeding program of Goos & Koenemann and was introduced a year earlier in 1924.  I’m sure I could fit a clump of these out front.

 

iris vingolf

Iris ‘Vingolf’.  A shorter stouter iris, perfect for along the edge of the bed where the foliage will pick up once the flowers fade.

In this dry and sunny bed the foliage of these historic iris usually holds up well and looks decent throughout most of the summer.  It reminds me that with all this focus on grass trimming, canna planting, and Tuesday views, I’ve missed another monthly focus on foliage with Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides so I’ll try and sneak that mention in as well.  Here’s a bed across the lawn from the street border, it’s highlight are a few lusty verbascum ‘Governor Aiken’ seedlings which appeared last year and were just too healthy to pull.

verbascum governor aiken

Verbascum and a whole bunch of other things looking Maytime fresh.  The ‘Tiger Eye’ sumac suckers look so innocent right now and of course there are more iris, variegated this time.

So there it is, the Tuesday view and a few other things all still posted on the appropriate day… assuming you are visiting from the Atlantic time zone… I suggest you take a look at Words and Herbs and see what others around the world are seeing this week.  Maybe it’s iris season there as well and I can’t help but say that’s a good thing.

Tuesday View: The Front Border 5.9.17

As usual the Tuesday view has become a Wednesday view and although I’m sure there are a bunch of excuses I could work in, I don’t think anyone is really bothered enough to complain.  So lets get right in to it!  The view has gone green now that the daffodils have faded but there are still the new tulips showing off towards the middle.

street border

Lush grass and growing perennials.  It’s been a decent spring now that the thunderstorms, snow, hail and tornadoes of April have eased off.  We didn’t even get a late frost…. yet.

This is the time of year when most of the garden takes a little spring breather, though it’s really more a winding up as the stems and shoots of summer’s flowers expand and grow and get ready to put out the next wave of color.  I already overdid the tulips last post so let’s look at a few foliage highlights  a’la Christina’s monthly focus on foliage… because you know I’m sure to miss it later in the month when GB Foliage Day comes up!

variegated iris pallida aureo-variegata

My second favorite iris, the yellow variegated Iris pallida ‘aureo-variegata’.  To do well here this one needs dividing and replanting every three or four years.  This one is far past four years and nearly swamped by fennel seedlings and a weedy sedum.

Yellows are my favorite foliage effect and sometimes it takes a lot for me to hold back.  In the back of my mind I realize a garden can only hold so many yellow “accents” before it looks like some ’80’s neon flashback but they’re sooooo tempting.  This spring I’ve only added two new yellows, a variegated comfrey and a yellow spiderwort, and the restraint this took has me almost at the breaking point.  The struggle is real.

sedum angelina

Bright yellow with orange tips on the healthier shoots.  I think it’s time to spread more of sedum ‘Angelina’ around the edges of the bed, and fortunately it’s as easy as pulling a handful, throwing it into a shallow hole and scraping a little dirt on top.

Here’s a more permanent bit of foliage as well.  After two years of growth my newest little conifers from Conifer Kingdom are finally beginning to look like something.  They’re destined to be trees but to look at them you’d never guess it.  There are still a few more springs before I have to worry about the poorly chosen spots I put them in, but it will come.  My kids were never supposed to grow up either and here they are staying after school, taking tests, having drama, and acting all smart when I just wish they’d still need to hold my hand crossing the parking lot.

Picea glauca 'Pendula'

Picea glauca ‘Pendula’.  Still needs a little staking before it commits to growing up and not flopping.

My little blue spruce is a thing which an overly protective parent will be able to hover over for years.  Optimistically I’d say it’s nearly tripled in size in the last two years… to be honest it still hasn’t broken the 6 inch barrier so it has a way yet to go.  I put it right at the edge for now since an overly lush pansy would probably swamp it at this point.

picea pungens walnut glen

Picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’.  A blue spruce which stays on the dwarf side and develops (you guessed it) a yellow tint on top of the blue needles. 

So I have the twenty year plan down but nothing for this summer.  Typical lazy planning, but this spring the annuals from seed and overwintered coleus cutting compulsion just hasn’t kicked in and I’ve got nothing else in the works.  Figures this would also be the year there’s a whole new strip of bed to fill and this unfilled bed would be the focus of  Cathy’s weekly Tuesday view.  Things could get ugly but I have faith.  Like manna from heaven I spotted tiny patches of rudbeckia seedlings in one spot and a shimmer of Verbena bonariensis seedlings in another.  Purple and yellow are a start and of course I do like my yellows 🙂

Tuesday View: The Street Border 04.11.17

Two weeks have passed since the last Tuesday view, so it’s about time we see what the melted snow and furious warm-up have left behind.  If I remember correctly this photo was taken in the late afternoon, shortly after our Tuesday high of 86F (30C) had begun to cool off and allow some relief to plants more accustomed to snow flurries and frost.

spring mixed border

The early daffodils and hyacinths have sprouted and come into bloom in a matter of days.  As recently as three days ago I believe the grass was still brown!

These catapults into warm weather always leave me a little irritated.  I’ve got a ton of cleanup to do but the lawn is still a melting-snow-mess of soggy ground and matted leaves.  Fortunately the front yard dried out enough for me to get around without making too muddy a mess, and I was able to rob the neighborhood leaf dump for some free leaf mulch to top off the border.  The mulch went a long way in covering up all the debris I was too lazy to pick up, and I just managed to get it on in what seemed like the last hours before too many of the spring bulbs had sprouted.

spring mixed border

Yellow ‘Tweety Bird’ daffodils with a bunch of hyacinths which need dividing.  There’s never enough time to get all these things done. 

Besides the daffodils and hyacinths there is also a noticeable increase in the corydalis population.  Last summer I managed to find and dig a few dormant bulbs and immediately replanted them along the street.  They’re all the pink ‘Beth Evans’ but if I get to it this summer I’ll mix in a few of other spare colors from around the yard… assuming I remember to dig them before they disappear completely in May, they go fast.

spring mixed border

I’m aiming for a mix of corydalis, eranthis and snowdrops in this part of the bed.  It’s an area which will become a thicket of butterfly bush (buddleia) by August so the bulbs will be able to rest comfortably in the shadows until next spring.

Nothing is ever perfect though, and last spring’s early warmth, late freeze damage, and then relentless cold rain are coming back to haunt the tulips this year.  ‘Tulip Fire’ (Botrytis tulipae) is a fungal disease related to the gray molds which thrive in damp, cold weather.  It shows as spotted and distorted (or scorched) leaves which will ruin your tulip show.  Wise gardeners will dig up and dispose of the infected plants and avoid replanting tulips for about three years and possibly resort to fungicidal sprays, but the less wise gardener might respond differently.  He might ignore the problem and hope better tulip weather will bring some relief in future seasons.  It’s more of a prayer approach and sometimes this method works out better than you can imagine.  Sometimes it doesn’t, and we’ll keep you posted.

tulip fire fungus

The spotting and distorted sprouts of tulip fire infected tulips.

For now though there are plenty of other distractions to keep one from dwelling on the loss of a few tulip blooms.  Here’s another view of daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’ and the spreading corydalis.  I think it looks very promising.

spring mixed border

Early spring color in the front border.

It looks colorful at least, and it’s a welcome relief after all the snow of just a few weeks ago.  Let’s hope it lasts for a few days at least.

The Tuesday view is a weekly visit to the same spot each week of the growing season.  Cathy of Words and Herbs hosts, and I highly recommend a visit to see what her view looks like and to see what others around the world are enjoying this week.  Have a happy Easter!

In Like a Lamb

I’m considering filing a restraining order against March this year.  Every spring-like warm spell brings the hellebores and snowdrops on a little further along but then some new brutal weather event comes by to smack them all down again.  It’s clearly an unhealthy relationship but I just can’t move on.  Every time the sun comes out again, spring becomes so real I just want to forgive and forget and say just one more chance.

galanthus brenda troyle

Possibly my favorite snowdrop, ‘Brenda Troyle’ looks extremely average but it’s also so reliable and perfect I can’t say a single bad thing about it.

Most of the snowdrops were lost after the first chance for spring came and went, but a few hid here and there either underground or cozied up to the house foundation.  A shame they didn’t warn the hellebores about how fickle the season was being.

hellebore buds

The hellebores which could have been.

I admit I’m not much help in protecting things.  A few snowdrops received a plastic tub or bucket cover for when the thermometer dropped to 7F (-14C) one night, but most things are on their own.

galanthus lagodechianus

Galanthus lagodechianus tried hiding underground for a while and did manage to avoid the hail, but then came up just as the latest arctic blast was about to hit.  Fortunately a simple cover saved its perfect flowers from damage and at least this week I’ll be able to enjoy the yellow coloring which is exceptionally bright this spring.  

The various snow crocus in the meadow garden are always a risky bet so I can’t complain much here.  The weather gets whatever the rabbits didn’t so even in a good year you need to be quick.

snow crocus

Some warm sun might be too much to ask for.  I keep waiting for the spring where I see a whole swath of opened crocus basking in the sunlight… but it hasn’t happened yet. 

To hedge my spring flowering bets I went around yesterday and plucked any undamaged hellebores which were still around.  A few remained and they were enough to remind me why I still bother growing them…. since last year’s season was mostly a bust as well.

hellebore flowers

Snuggled up right next to the porch foundation, hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ has actually flowered well this year. Usually the buds are killed much earlier in the winter and never make it to this point.  Wish I could say the same for the others, but this small handful were the only undamaged flowers I could rustle up. 

Hopefully the rest of March is a little gentler on the hellebores and the later flowers can still develop and put on a show.  It would be nice to see a few showy clumps instead of the wilted and blacked stalks I’ve been getting used to seeing.

hail damage magnolia

Fingers crossed that this is the last of the hail damage.  At first the magnolias didn’t look so bad, but once the damage started to brown it was a different story. Fresh foliage will make this all a memory in a few more weeks… I think.

One last complaint.  For some reason these snowdrops (G. woronowii) really took a beating from the cold.  Maybe it was the 62F to 7F drop in temperature, or the wet soil, or the exposed location, whatever the case I think a few might not be salvageable.

snowdrop freeze damage

Sad seeing freeze damage on a snowdrop but it’s not my first time.  Maybe a few will survive, but they (and about 200 others) were looking so promising for their first year. 

I guess some days it’s just better to stay indoors.

forced tulip

The first of the forced tulips are coming into flower.  I’m sure their shortness says something bad about their culture but to be honest the height actually works out perfectly for under the growlights 🙂

The indoor garden should really have many more seedlings getting size on them for spring planting, but for whatever reason I just haven’t yet been in the mood to tackle a whole under-lights seed agenda this year.  I planted onions, that’s it.  Good thing the primroses are filling in and starting to flower.

primula auricula

Photographing yellow is still a sticking point for me, but hopefully this picture still gets across how nicely this primula auricula has done.

Having my yellow Primula auricula survive for a second year was a surprise in itself, but the fact that it’s actually multiplied and flowered again is borderline unbelievable.

primula auricula

I still think the mealy powder on these flowers is one of the most exotic things. 

These indoor flowers will have to keep me and most of the East coast going for the next few days since March just decided to come back and slap us with a surprise snowfall.  Normally this would be another reason to complain, but at least snow should insulate things for the temperature drop which will follow.

hellebore in snow

Hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ in the actual snow.

Temperature drop and then more snow.  Right now they’re saying lots more but given the forecasting track record it’s still too soon to tell.  Wouldn’t that be something though if we get more snow in the first few days of spring than we did all winter.  March must know I was planning on a garden visit next weekend because I bet this weather forecast is what jealously looks like.  Stop it March!

Earliest. Cleanup. Ever.

The title says it all.  Nearly all the snow has melted, jackets were thrown aside, and for a glorious weekend we enjoyed obscenely nice spring temperatures and sunshine.  I didn’t even do the responsible thing and wash the car first, I went straight for the clippers and rake and tidied winter away from the front yard.  With flowers bursting up out of the soil it was the only logical thing to do.

first snowdrops

The first snowdrops and the bright yellow of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

I’m not one to hem and haw about “is it too early” or “can I uncovered the perennials yet”, I just dive right in as soon as the weather gives me the chance.  Sure it will probably get cold again, but I find that covered or not they’re going to start growing anyway.

galanthus nivalis

The earliest of the common snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) came up completely as the snow melted Saturday.  I think they look even nicer coming up amongst a nice groundcover of hardy cyclamen.

I’d love to assault you (again) with far too many snowdrop pictures, but for now will limit myself to just three.  I do want to have a few readers left for the other 11 months of the year…

galanthus wendy's gold

‘Wendy’s Gold’  is one of the “yellow” snowdrops.  The color is exceptional this year, and just as bright as today’s sunshine.

After a downright miserable snowdrop season last year, this year (all three days of it so far) is shaping up to be outstanding.  With the usual optimism of a gardener I’m positive that last year’s arctic blasts and heat waves, combined with downpours and hail, will not repeat.  I see nothing but idyllic temperatures and sunshine, even though it is about a month early.  But just in case, I’ll keep watering the winter garden since it’s coming along as well.

forced hyacinth

A few of the hyacinths I forced this winter.  Not bad for a bunch of clearance bulbs.

The indoor snowdrops are mostly over, but the cyclamen are going strong and the primrose are promising a nice show as they send up flower buds.  Miraculously I’ve managed to see my Primula auricula through the winter and bring it back into flower again under the lights.  I managed to grow this from seed (somehow) and I’m afraid it’s literally led me down a primrose path to membership in the American Primrose Society.  Now for a third year in a row I’ve ordered more seed and just in case you’re brave enough, the society has just opened up this seed exchange to non members.  Click here for a link to some of the best (and cheapest) primula seed available in the US.

primula auricula

Definitely not the fanciest example of an auricula primrose, but it’s my very own (and most importantly I haven’t killed it yet).  The fancier versions come in rich reds, blues or greens with larger flowers, bicolor blooms… all with that cool white-powdered center.

I’m excited again about the primroses, but Cyclamen coum are still a favorite.  Their numbers have dropped a little due to someone not being the most capable cyclamen grower, but I have plans to turn that trend around.  I’ve been going and dabbing pollen from flower to flower in the hopes of getting a few seeds to form, and if all works as planned there will be a new batch of these coming along in no time.

cyclamen seed forming

Unpollinated flowers will wilt and fall over, pollinated flowers will curl up and tuck themselves down close to the ground to form a seed pod.  I think this is one of the most curious traits of these little plants.

As the cyclamen set their seeds and the other flowers join the show I’ve decided to bring a few of the forced tulip bulbs under the lights to see what they can do.  Tulips indoors are a first for me, but with the way our weather’s going the ones outside will be nearly open anyway so it’s no great loss if failure strikes.

forced tulips

In typical fashion bulbs have been carelessly stuffed into a too small pot, and although I don’t anticipate any overwhelming demand for this less than attractive photo, in my opinion it looks extremely promising.

And we will see where this season takes us.  It’s a freakishly early start to spring but even in a normal year there’s plenty of unfortunate weather to go around, so a beautifully warm weekend in February isn’t the worst thing.  I guess we will just have to enjoy it while we can, and of course I’m fine with that.

An old familiar itch

It’s time to face the reality of unsown seeds and unplanted vegetable beds.  There… done.  For the past few years I’ve been making a real effort tot get all kinds of annual seed growing, all kinds of cuttings started, and all kinds of summer bulbs planted, but this year something is off.  Maybe I’ve been too busy with other things, but in all honesty I live a fairly lazy life and for me to say I don’t have the time or energy to start a few salvia seed or pot up a few coleus cuttings is just a bunch of excuses.  My reality this year is I just don’t care to.  I’m not a farmer after all, and the family won’t go hungry or broke if the potatoes fail, so I just keep enjoying what I’m doing and don’t stress it if this year I only start 10 or 20 coleus cuttings rather than 75.  The iris are in bloom after all, and this year they are nearly perfect.

historic bearded iris

The view from the street is far nicer this spring with green grass and healthy spring growth.  I forgot what it’s like to start the year with cool temperatures and ample rainfall rather than dry winds and drought.

I have a weakness for iris, and go back and forth between indifference and obsession depending on the season.  This year it’s obsession.

historic bearded iris

Clumps of iris are scattered throughout the front border.  They are mostly old cultivars (~100 years) and although they lack the ruffles and fluff of the modern iris, they’re very well suited to the rough and tumble of often neglected and often overgrown perennial beds.

The number of blooms, the colors, the fragrance, are conspire against me this season and I’ve been on and off iris websites far more than I should admit…. even though the majority of my iris are either pass-alongs or just plain found alongside the road and had nothing to do with a catalog order.

historic bearded iris

From left to right, Flavescens (pre 1813), Ambassadeur (1920), and Indian Chief (1929).

The jury is still out on any big iris orders since I should really take better care of what I have, but people say it doesn’t hurt to look and so far that’s all I’ve been doing.

blue foundation planting

The striped leaves of Iris pallida ‘aureo-variegata’ accenting the front foundation plantings.  You can count on this iris to scent the whole corner of a bed with that delicious grape scent which many of the older varieties put out.

It hasn’t been all sloth and idleness in the garden this spring.  A few small projects are getting done in spite of my laziness, although I’m not promising they’ve all been done to the best of my ability or that they are the best value for my little effort.  One interesting discovery I came across is that bearded iris are fairly resistant to Roundup type (glyphosphate) herbicides.  That of course leads me to carelessness when spraying around the clumps next door, since the chances of iris damage are far outweighed by my ‘want to do as little free labor as possible especially when it includes pulling weeds out of monotonously boring mulch beds in someone else’s yard’.

roundup on iris

Iris foliage is fairly resistant to Roundup yet the flowers will discolor and stunt depending on how much of the poison they absorb.  These flowers should be larger and a dark velvety red rather than small and anemic looking.   

Before anyone gets too excited, I just want to say I really don’t use too many chemicals in the garden and although I like to appear as if I’m lazily spraying about I really am somewhat cautious, if only because I have too many more sensitive plants which I’d hate to lose.  For what it’s worth my research shows that iris, vinca, and nut grass are pretty much the only plants which will not be outright killed by careless Roundup spraying…. although for the vinca and nut grass the spraying was very intentional.

roundup on iris

Normal iris bloom to the left, increasing Roundup effects on the same plant to the right.  A heavy dose will give a colorless cauliflower-like stalk which is entirely uninteresting.

Besides chemical warfare on weeds, another questionable project started with my purchase of a Charlie Brown delphinium which needed a perfect spot in order to wow everyone with its amazing comeback.  My single successful clump grows alongside the front porch so this was the most obvious spot to try another, except for the six foot Alberta spruce which already grows there.

delphinium foundation planting

The healthy delphinium clump is front and center with the spruce behind.  The Charlie Brown delphinium sits soaking in the white bucket to the right.

Alberta spruce is a 365 days a year respectable plant, with an attractive form and many years of service in and many years of service to come.  It would make no sense to pull it out in favor of a temperamental diva which needs fussing and fertilizing and timely staking to protect it from the high winds which strike each year (always two or three days into peak bloom season).

delphinium foundation planting

Spruce gone, delphinium in (one of the ‘New Millenium’ hybrids).  Not the most logical decision I’ve ever made but in the garden I prefer to live guilt free and impulse happy.  Also, if you could, please ignore all the trash and clutter on the porch beyond.  I only got around to cleaning it up after this photo was taken.

I’m distracted again, let me finish up iris season.  The Siberian iris and Japanese iris might be some of the most beautiful flowers of the plant world, but I don’t grow many.  They seem to flower for a total of one week and although the grassy foliage looks respectable all summer and they handle nearly any abuse which comes their way I try to limit any collecting urges.

purple siberian iris

An unknown purple siberian iris with a still unplanted tropical border behind it.

One Siberian iris which I couldn’t walk away from was ‘Super Ego’.  It’s not because it was in bloom when I saw it or that the color was unique or any other particular quality, it was because of a childhood dream which was set on fire by a random White Flower Farm catalog which showed up in my mailbox one winter.  I think I’ve confessed to being a little odd as a child so the fact that I’d sit around spending hours reading through this catalog probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, but this 1980’s era catalog (which I probably still have somewhere in the basement) had ‘Super Ego’s glamor shot in it alongside a poetic description which convinced me that owning this plant would make me richer, smarter, and more popular.  Unfortunately the WWF catalog was way beyond my 10th grade budget so the actual plant never left Connecticut and I was forced to go on without.

Siberian iris super ego

Siberian iris ‘Super Ego’ just starting to open on a Thursday. 

The actual experience of growing ‘Super Ego’, while pleasant enough, didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  For what it’s worth, I guess I’m as smart, rich, and popular as I’m ever going to be.

Siberian iris super ego

‘Super Ego’ five days later after a few 90F days bleached most of the darker blue color out.  The chives in the back seem unfazed by the weather or passing time, although they are entirely less exotic in my opinion.

So as I wait for a new plant to come along and change my life I’ll continue weeding through the backyard iris beds.  They are infinitely less photogenic with their hefty companion plantings of weeds, but the old iris continue to carry on and deserve more respect than their neglected planting spot gives.  I even planted a few zinnia and marigold seeds last weekend.  That may not speak of high class and taste nor earn me a spot in the White Flower Farms catalog but it does mean that things are starting to move on the seed front, and if it all works out July and August should still be full of flowery color.

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!