GARDENING: Tip-toe thro’ the tulips

Tulips in the Alnwick Garden.
Tulips in the Alnwick Garden.
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Judging by the plethora of catalogues dropping through my letterbox, no prizes for guessing the favourite spring bulbs for autumn planting...

Yes, tulips are certainly heavily featured by all suppliers, large and small.

While I love them and know how well and reliably they perform I am slightly surprised.

Commercially they are hardly grown in the UK and over 90% come from mainland Europe.

Not so with daffodils of course, as the UK is now the world’s largest supplier, outstripping Holland by far – food for thought.

Tulips do of course give us such a bright colour range and, coupled with some quite exotic shapes, they will lift any gloom in the dark winter months.

My advice is to study your catalogues and choose tulips for specific purposes.

The dwarf, six to nine inches tall, types are spectacular when mass planted in hanging baskets or containers.

Use one variety per container and edge these with one variety of large crocus or iris reticulata.

Tall, stately tulips look great when planted in bold clumps, at least groups of ten, in your borders with wallflowers.

Plant at least 4” deep – this gives a firm anchorage against the winter winds.

To be cost effective bulk buy with friends because quite large savings can be obtained.

Plant them near to your windows or porch so you can enjoy their beauty from indoors.

Tulips will be available from August onwards.

Order early, unpack them on receipt, and keep them cool and dry for planting September onwards.

Remember, as with all bulbs, it’s in the planting that the many newcomers to our hobby make the most mistakes.

A dusting of bonemeal – 2oz per square yard – is advised before planting.

This makes for sturdy stems and firmer flowers.