Weatherwise, it’s been a bit of a funny spring this year, but it hasn’t stopped tulips from putting on a stunning show.
And some of the best can be seen this bank holiday weekend when a tulip festival is being held at Constable Burton Hall, in North Yorkshire. Today, tomorrow and Monday, thousands of these wonderful flowers should make a visit one to remember
But when these lovely blooms are past their best, it’s decision time, not just for the gardeners at Constable Burton, but for gardeners around the county; do they leave them in situ or dig them up and store them until November when they can be replanted? Whatever your choice, dead-head them to stop them setting seed.
Many tulips are happy to live in the ground all year round, just as long as summer is reasonably dry and warm; many more, however, will do much better if they are lifted and stored for a few months.
Dig them up when the flowers have faded and lay them in a trench somewhere warm and sunny. When the foliage has died completely, lift the bulbs, clean them and let them dry for a while before storing them in a dry place before the autumn planting season.
Most gardeners tend to grow tulips that flower in March, April and May because they provide strong colour early on in the year, and they are usually guaranteed to put on a good show.
Just remember to always plant bulbs in well-drained soil– in the wild they are bulbs of cold, windswept, dry areas. Wet soil promotes fungus and disease and can rot bulbs. Help the drainage by sitting each bulb on sand and adding organic matter.
Plant tulip bulbs deep – eight inches is about right. And water after planting. They may like a well-drained soil, but they need a good drink to get them going.
The big favourites among tulips are the Greigii types which have mottled foliage. They have short stems (about 15cm long) and come in many colours.
For an April/May tulip reminiscent of old Dutch oil paintings, try the double bedding tulip called ‘Carnival de Nice’. It produces large, fragrant double white blooms with strong bright red flares.
Very fashionable of late are the fringed tulips which have heavily serrated edges to the petals. They bloom from late April to May on tall stems and provide extra interest with their flashy bi-colours and fascinating petal forms.